Development is increasingly being seen as affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, droughts, floods and storms. This paper outlines the main ways in which disasters impact differently on women and men and how these impacts vary according to context. Gender inequality is a cause of vulnerability due to factors such as cultural values and unequal work burdens. For example, women may be less able to find employment opportunities or to continue their education following natural disasters and may suffer disproportionately from the loss of family support networks and the increase in female headed households. Women need to be seen as agents of change. In particular their role in the subsistence economy needs to be acknowledged as productive and not simply hidden 'domestic' labour. Women's energy in improving their communities in the aftermath of disasters can give them self confidence and empowerment, and they may also benefit from opportunities for education and training if male family members have died or migrated following the disaster. Recommendations include: conducting good quality and context specific gender analysis; collection of sex-disaggregated data and gender-sensitive education in order to increase public awareness; legislation and regulation to demonstrate and ensure commitment from public authorities; improved networking and partnerships between different sectors; and conduct research which goes beyond looking at the gendered impacts of disasters to better understand how gender relates to increased risk.
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