A look into the lives of those affected by the 7.4 M earthquake in Palu, Indonesia shows glimpses of grief, to be sure; but there are also snapshots of resilience, too. Among the central Sulawesi earthquake survivors, particularly women and girls, most have increased responsibilities and more hard work than before to ensure their families are relatively safe, healthy and sound. Agustin and her family, among other survivors, lost everything: their home and their possessions as well as community infrastructure, like water and sanitation systems. The collapse of these system has inevitably increased the workload of women and children, who are usually responsible for housework. But if the “house” has become a tent or a plastic tarpaulin tied to the side of a building and help up with bamboo poles and when neighborhoods are destroyed and people dispersed, women, especially, lose a part of their identity and their networks too. The isolation from familiar support and camaraderie often makes women more reliant on their husbands or other male relatives, even their sons, who can move about, for information or assistance. And to many women, this can add stress in all that is already going on.
To continue addressing some of the issues displaced women and girls have faced for months in Sulawesi, CWS staff work closely alongside them and with civil society partners and government workers to help ensure that women are part of all decision-making about issues, like the essentials of access to water and sanitation, that affect them. A woman named Agustin is one of the strongest women CWS staff have met in promoting girls’ and women’s perspectives, and she is now the community coordinator for the temporary shelter area she lives in. “As community coordinator, I monitor the shelter area and make sure to meet with everyone, talk with them about their ideas and concerns, and make sure they feel that the shelter area is safe. I also meet with people to help make sure that our rights are protected. Right now, we are working with the government to try and get compensation for our damaged houses. I really like my work as a community coordinator, but sometimes I feel bad for the people I work with. For example, when people have specific needs that I try to get local government workers to help with, but I can’t succeed in getting the help, I feel I am not doing my job well.”
Agustin is a great example of how including people who are directly affected by a disaster in their own protection and recovery helps increase the effectiveness of CWS efforts. She is one of 110,000-plus people who were displaced by the late September 2019 earthquake and tsunami; so, after all these months, she knows first-hand what others are going through, and can ask people exactly what they need. Through the perseverance of women like Augustin, basic needs can be met, and essential rights upheld. “By working as a community coordinator, I can help my neighbors raise their voices, so our basic needs are met.” When the basics are taken care of, and people get back on their feet, everyone can start concentrating on other things. For instance, Augustin is now helping people find jobs.
As Augustin and other displaced community members continue their individual work, CWS continues distributing about 235,000 liters (62,000 gallons) of water daily using 12 tanker trucks to reach 53 different locations where about 10,200 people from 2,800-plus households come to collect clean water along with information about how to ensure its safety for cooking and drinking. In addition, 22 four-stall public latrines have been built for community in two districts while CWS continues to provide emergency shelter kids and household items to those in continuing need.
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