Facing disasters making decisions:
Gender Dimensions in Disaster Management

Video launch - 31 March 2005, Sri Lanka Foundation Institute

The tsunami disaster of December 26th 2004 was both unprecedented and unexpected.The tsunami did not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, religion or socio-economic status. As with any disaster, the impact of the tsunami was felt differently by different sections of society.

The tsunami disaster presents an enormous challenge to communities, civil society groups, development agencies and to the government. Numerous agencies and individuals have attended to the immediate relief measures, and a massive reconstruction and rehabilitation process has begun.With international and local aid pouring in, and volunteers rushing to offer their services, the priorities have shifted beyond relief to reconstruction and rehabilitation. Despite good intentions; there is always the risk that important issues could get bypassed. Experience shows that gender, in particular addressing women's issues in disaster situations, is a key area where there will be gaps unless given specific attention. Although women and men have many common concerns, disasters do affect women and men differently due to their socially assigned different roles and responsibilities, and resulting vulnerabilities and capacities.

Women take an active part in community disaster response initiatives in many countries and communities. Yet, in more formal planning, women are rarely represented and markedly absent in decision-making processes.

For instance, many international and local development organisations have carried out post tsunami damage and needs assessments, but none of them have tackled the gender issues adequately. There is extremely limited gender-specific information or analysis on the role of women in the damaged economic sectors such as fishery, tourism, agriculture.The reconstruction and rehabilitation interventions address the basic needs common to all such as temporary shelter, food and medical assistance. However, the attention is poor on a number of issues which specifically concern women, such as security and safety, hygienic conditions, need for legal services. Ignorance of gender differences leads to insensitive and ineffective operations that largely bypass women's needs and their potential to contribute to disaster relief and rebuilding activities. In order for development organisations to empower communities to successfully move on and move up from the abyss of disaster, sensitivity to gender concerns is vital.

Practical Action introduced the video Facing Disasters Making Decisions: Gender Dimensions in Disaster Management with a view to highlight the importance of gender issues in the wake of tsunami rebuilding. The launch was held on the 31st March 2005, at 3.30pm, at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute,100, Independence Avenue, Colombo 07. We welcomed participation, insights, and impressions as to how to make post tsunami rebuilding gender sensitive.

Further information

Practical Action South Asia's work in disaster mitigation

Gender Dimensions in Disaster Management, by Madhavi Ariyabandu and Maithree Wickremasinghe, and a review of the book.

Madhavi Ariyabandu from Practical Action South Asia was awarded the 2004 Mary Fran Myers Award by the Gender and Disaster Network for advancing women's careers in emergency management and promoting gendered disaster research.

Livelihood Centred Approach to Disaster Management - a Policy Framework
This publication is aimed at international disaster, relief and development organisations, multilateral and bilateral donors, and national governments in South Asian Countries. It links disaster management issues with sustainable livelihoods, within the context of governance in the region.

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