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Women: The Risk Managers in Natural Disasters

Publication date:
M. Ariyabandu
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This paper highlights the unique role played by women during and after the onset of a natural disaster, with specific reference to Sri Lanka and the South Asian region. Sri Lanka, as an island in the Bay of Bengal, is frequently hit by floods, droughts and landslides, with the government response being more geared towards charity and relief rather than preparedness and disaster management. It is in this context that women, particularly in their role as nurturers and as carers, are expected to protect the family in times of emergency through activities such as protecting food stocks and taking children and animals to safety. When disaster strikes, women come together to find ways to adapt to shortages in food and water, pooling money and sharing resources to ensure survival. It is also women who are the first to take on care for those injured in a disaster, in addition to feeding the family in high risk conditions such as walking through flood waters or over long distances to find food. It is recommended that governments and disaster planners move away from thinking of women as victims to recognising the essential work they do.