Teaching Self-Sufficiency to Women after Layou Disaster
On July 28 2011, the Matthieu Dam or Liracle Lake breached its banks and flooded the community of Layou. Layou, in the Parish of St. Joseph, suffers the highest incidence of poverty in Dominica. At 42.7% of people in this parish living below the poverty line, this is far greater than the national poverty average of 28%. The disaster caused serious damage to infrastructure, property and livelihoods for the residents of Layou. Farmers were affected as the roads leading to their farms were destroyed prompting them to seek alternative routes which resulted in transportation costs. The fisher folk community was also severely affected by the disaster. Their loss included damage to boats, fishing equipment, and their fishing area was destroyed by silt and debris from the disaster. This resulted in having to travel longer distances for fishing.
- Two participants have already begun using the skills they have learned to further their business aspirations.
- Through this project, the Caribbean Development Bank will fund the construction of a multi-purpose Community Resource Center that would also serve as an Emergency Shelter for the Community.
A Community Needs Assessment was held targeting women from the community on the premise that disaster affects men and women differently; hence focus on developing a project to develop skills set to cushion the effects of the disaster on women and indirectly on children.
One single mother who was especially affected by the disaster stated, “a special thank you to UNDP, as a participant of all three components. I enjoyed participating, I learnt a lot as a single parent”.
UNDP, as part of the Country Programme Action Plan, supported the project titled, "Disaster Recovery at Layou". The project, in coordination with the Government of Dominica, aimed at addressing the issues in relation to women who as single mothers, carers and nurturers of families, carry the heavier burden and therefore were more negatively impacted by the effects of such a disaster.The overall objectives of the project were:
- To improve the livelihoods of women by enhancing their income earning capabilities
- To empower 25 women in the community of Layou through skills training and knowledge enhancement towards alternative forms of income generation
- To engender healthy community interaction through a participatory process of involvement of community residents throughout the implementation of the project
- To reduce the incidence of violence and crime among youth through training and empowerment and through public education and sensitization utilizing music as a medium
- To enhance the employment capabilities of youth through self-employment resulting from training and skills enhancement.
On May 3, 2012, twenty-five wheeled igloo coolers and fifty re-freezable ice sheets were presented to the women of Layou along with food handlers' permits. This will allow the women to safely store fresh fish for sale.
The Environmental Health Department conducted a workshop on food handling, consisting of 25 participants. The topics covered were: the definition of fish preservation; proper steps in handling fresh fish; personal hygiene; what causes fish to spoil; and how fish becomes unsafe.
“It was a great adventure, we learned different things we can prepare a proper meal. I benefit from it a lot. I am planning to do my own business. Buying things was tight”, stated one successful candidate of the training sessions.
The second component of the project, "Entrepreneurial Skills Training in International Cooking and Sewing" provided opportunities for alternative livelihoods for the women of Layou. The sessions were conducted over a 12 week period, and the response was outstanding, with 23 out of 25 participants completing the course.
"I want to thank UNDP and the Government [of Dominica]. I learned a lot from the sewing programme. I tried buying my own material. I used the cooking programme for brushing up my skills. It gave me a push. I am planning to do a summer programme", says one enthusiastic participant of the programme.
Through the project, there were some challenged. However, by the end of the course, the participants showed a marked improvement in both skill development and attitude adjustment. They were more tolerant of each other than at the beginning of the programme, and these are necessary skills essential for community enhancement.