Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow: women led disaster preparedness & crises resilience

8 March 2022
Ms. Pallavi Rathod

by Ms. Pallavi Rathod

All India Disaster Mitigation Institute

To mark 2022’s International Women’s Day, CHS Alliance member All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) share the interlinked and overlapping impact that crises have on women and girls as well as the potential for women to lead disaster preparedness and responses.

People often think of disasters as cataclysmic events that cause indiscriminate death, destruction and distress at the moment they occur, affecting everyone in their path. However, the adverse effects of disasters and extreme events on individuals is driven by many interacting social and economic factors over the course of a person’s lifetime.

Gender is one of those social constructs that often determines the extent of a crisis’ impact on a person. Society-wide, structural gender inequalities mean that women and girls bear a disproportionate burden of emergencies. It has often been observed – including in AIDMI’s work – that the same disaster or extreme event can have very different impacts on men compared to women and other gender minorities.

During various disasters in India, the mortality of women has been higher than that of men. For instance, during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, more women died than men. Several factors were behind this difference, including restrictive dress, as well as women’s efforts to save valuables from homes and protect children by taking higher risks. This is the reason why AIDMI was one of the first in the tsunami response to address women’s needs first and directly.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted this differentiated vulnerability like never before. As the pandemic unfolded, its impacts on women’s welfare, food and livelihood security became increasingly clear. The pandemic and lockdowns disrupted livelihoods and economic chains in rural and urban areas across every corner of India. Research by sector experts from organisations such as the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Bank and the Centre for Global Development, highlight the different effect the pandemic has had on men and women and their ability to cope with these multiple shocks.

For instance, during the pandemic women tended to experience longer-term income shocks and have greater difficulty accessing food compared to men. Furthermore, the pandemic increased the unpaid care burden on women due to school closures and the additional needs of sick family members in the household. Research also showed an increase in gender-based violence and deteriorating mental health of women.

Another way that women are treated differently is that the role of women leaders and responders is often ignored in risk reduction and relief contexts, which limits their participation. Women can prepare for and respond to extreme events and crises at every level, but are hugely underutilised in leadership roles.

Due to these factors, AIDMI has dedicated the latest edition of our journal toLearning about the Intersectionality of Women led Disaster Preparedness and Resilience’. We feel that this topic has emerged as an important policy agenda, challenging our pre-existing notions of the risks and vulnerabilities driven by gender dynamics. This differentiated vulnerability needs to be articulated and understood so that appropriate risk reduction and crises response policies can be implemented.

CHS Alliance supports our members to apply the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality & Accountability so that they are equipped to prepare for – and respond to – every crises equitably.