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Indian Ocean Tsunami Through The Gender Lens

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C. Pincha
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The Indian Ocean Tsunami, also known as Asian Tsunami on 26 December 2004, is the deadliest in recorded history. Following Indonesia and Sri Lanka, India was the third hardest hit country with the Tsunami killing 12,405 people. In particular, the disaster affected women and children, who accounted for nearly 75 percent of the fatalities. This study examines the gendered realities that resulted in the aftermath of the Tsunami for men, women and transgenders (aravanis). The document shows how women were excluded from the list of beneficiaries prepared by the Panchayats(i.e. traditional local self-governance systems) as the local patriarchal communities did not recognize women as heads of household. Relocation after the disaster increased women's workloads, decreased their control over food and income, and disrupted their social support networks. Although the lack of proper healthcare affected people in general, its impact was more severe on women being more vulnerable to reproductive and sexual health issues.As most aravanis do not have ration cards, they were unable to have access to housing. A number of good policy practices are suggested which include the strengthening of gender infrastructure within organizations by introducing a gender policy, developing gender sensitive indicators for monitoring and evaluation, introducing gender analysis of budgets, and by recruiting staff that are sensitive to gender issues. Making women's voices more effective within the organization can further strengthen the gender equality agenda. This could be achieved by increasing the participation of women staff in decision making and leadership and by networking with other organizations. The document does show that many women and adolescent girls across communities have become vocal about their need and aspirations following the Tsunami. They have gained the capacity to reflect on the gender bias inherent in social norms and institutions, for instance in the structure of male dominated traditional Panchayat. The fact that women have seen the positive changes that policy interventions can make in their own lives permits the possibility of a bottom up mobilization for gender mainstreaming.Summary adapted from source.

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