What would a gender-conscious response to natural disasters look like? This is the question posed in this article. It is an established fact that women are more vulnerable to natural disasters. For example, 80 percent of the deaths that resulted from the 2005 Asian Pacific tsunami were women. The various reasons for this include biological factors, such as pregnancy and less physical strength to climb to safety, as well as social factors, such as their care giving roles, which prompt women to stay in unsafe locations with loved ones who cannot be transported (the sick, disabled, elderly and children). Women also constitute a valuable disaster response resource. They tend to know who lives in their communities, and in which homes there are vulnerable people. These are some reasons why the Gender and Disaster Network encourages resisting stereotypes, such as those which would view women solely as victims; and developing women’s capacities to mitigate disaster risks and harmful post-disaster impacts. Post-disaster situations pose particular opportunities as well as dangers. According to the Gender and Disaster Network, natural disaster response programmes should bear in mind that women and girls in these circumstances are more vulnerable to sexual assault, domestic abuse, trafficking, forced marriage, etc. Additionally, their responsibilities after a disaster may multiply as they struggle to support themselves as well as those within their care. Gender-aware responses to disasters must not perpetuate male control over economic resources during recuperation and reconstruction. Among other gender-conscious measures that should be taken are special efforts to provide post-disaster pregnancy, nursing and menstruation services to women. It is essential for women to be involved in disaster response planning programmes, and legislative debates.

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Disaster risk reduction