“If women and girls are left out of disaster management efforts or risk reduction measures, the talents, skills and knowledge of 50 per cent of the whole population will be ignored and their needs are unlikely to be met.”
Different types of disasters have globally increased in intensity and magnitude. Gender shapes people’s responses to disasters, both directly and indirectly. Although both women and men can be vulnerable to the negative consequences of disasters, women are generally looked at as helpless victims.
Considering women as a highly vulnerable group can be the result of highlighting the negative effects of disasters on women rather than their coping capacities.
To ignore women’s capacities and focus only on men’s abilities can adversely impact women, households and the whole community.
Women’s capacities in the recent natural disasters of Iran were explored in a qualitative study which was carried out in East Azerbaijan, Bushehr and Mazandaran, stricken by earthquakes and floods in the years 2012 and 2013.
Incorrect media portrayals—
The media show the images of women as a passive group waiting for rescue and relief by strong men. These pictures reflect the common notions of gender, which shape disaster management policy in hazard-prone regions.
For instance, the analysis of shots taken from women after the Australian tsunami showed that women were absent in 55.5 per cent of all photos. In 35.5 per cent of pictures, rescued women were depicted as the passive victims who could not do anything but cry and ask for help.
→ A number of studies did mention women’s capacities in disasters including high level of risk awareness, social networking practices, extensive knowledge of their communities, environmental resource management and caring abilities.
→ The management skills of women have been neglected in post-disaster scenarios.
→ Women are the key organizers in their families in everyday life, and more so in disastrous situations.
→ This study, probably the first of its kind, indicates that women can survive disasters better and turn into a resilient group in disaster-stricken communities as well as disaster-prone regions.
→ Women’s disaster management skills grew out of their experience in handling family affairs and contributing to family livelihood.
—Excerpt taken from The Neglect of Women’s Capacities in Disaster Management Systems in Iran in Indian Journal of Gender Studies.
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