The disastrous earthquake of Bam took Ashiane to Bam on December
2003. We did not have any experience with disaster but past experience
has shown that disasters, as horrible as they are, can actually
provide an opportunity for development and social change. What these
experiences have presented to us is the need to give a voice and
important role to women. In order for this to take place a short
as well as a long term plan is needed. Both plans have to be rooted
in a realistic assessment of people’s needs, potential and
life experiences. Women have to be in the center of this process
for the reason that their empowerment will benefit their family
and the community at large.
Our initial work in Bam transformed quickly to efforts to create
and organize a women’s center there. The center is currently
operating in a temporary structure. You can read about the activities
of the center by following the Bam Update link. Our goal is to create
a physical space that is built, run and maintained by the women
of Bam. A space that women assess their needs, come up with solutions
and work to implement them.
Important news and developments in the activities of the women’s
center in Bam will be posted here from time to time with the most
recent on top.
October- December 2004
The center continued with income generating activities and investigated
other income generating possibilities. Several suggestions were
considered by the center, among them the two that were deemed more
promising are: baking and hair salon. The women considered the idea
of registering the center as an independent NGO. The suggestion
that the women center becomes a registered local NGO was fully supported
by our office and we promised the women to help them with the application
process. The center also approached the city officials to obtain
a permit to start the child care center run by the women. The new
financial activities are on their way. The women also discussed
the possibility of another exchange trip with the Turkish group.
The month of the December was a difficult month for the women because
it coincides with the one year anniversary of the earthquake that
destroyed the city. The families were preparing for the memorial
July- September 2004
The idea of child care center that was a concern for women from
the beginning took a prominent position at their weekly discussion.
At this point many of the women want to work and their young children
need a better care. The center received a donation of two fully
equipped connex from the Swiss Development Agency to be used for
the child care by the members of the center. The women have selected
two members among themselves to receive training for managing the
child care center. The group also received several workshops on
family planning, drug prevention and nutrition. The month of September
was a quite month since many members were busy with date picking.
Around the middle of May 2004 the center moved to a prefabricated
unit donated by the Dutch NGO Assistance International. The move
to the prefab unit was a big step for the women’s center.
The women organized the move and started planning for the operation
of the center. The four financial active groups (sewing, doll making,
needle work (pateh) and flower making) that were formed while the
center was in the tent city continued their activities. The women
suggested taking a trip to a neighboring city (Zahedan) to purchase
goods to sell in Bam. The trip brought new experiences and some
financial gain to the center. Some of the women have never left
Bam and taking such an initiative was a big step toward their empowerment.
The saving and credit group idea that was suggested by the Turkish
sisters was implemented right after the move. Creation of the savings
group was another confidence building step for the women. They realized
that with very little savings they can build credit by participating
in the saving box of the center. The saving group can lend money
after six months to its qualified members.
Through our office in U.S. we tried to contact other NGO’s
and grassroots organization that had experience with disaster in
order to learn from their experience. Ashiane’s requests for
assistance from GROOTS International (www.groots.org)
led to an exchange trip with Foundation for the Support of Women’s
Work (www.kedv.org.tr), a Turkish
NGO that is part of GROOTS.
The exchange was a significant learning experience for the women
who were coming to the center. The Turkish women during the 6 days
of their visit shared their experience in recovery with the Iranian
women. The sharing centered around the areas of income generating
activities, gathering information on what is effecting their rebuilding
process and creating a child care center that is run by the women.
Two weeks after the earthquake we obtained a tent in the Vahdat
tent city. Our original intention was to offer counseling to women
who lost family members, but soon we realized that women wanted
and needed to work. The women asked us to support them in establishing
income-generating activities in familiar areas. The work started
with a few sewing machines and some supplies for making flowers
and expanded to four activities. The activities included a sewing
workshop (that started originally with two sewing machines and kept
growing), flower making (silk, plastic), handicraft art of Bam that
is called Pateh and doll making. In all the areas of the work we
had an experienced person among the women who taught the others.
The work was coordinated by one social worker from our Teheran’s
office who traveled to Bam every other week and supported and guided
the local women in their activities. Our effort in Bam was the first
to start job creation and we have had a good response from the community
and a large waiting list of women who wanted to join the “women’s