Protecting human rights and promoting gender equality must be central to disaster risk reduction and resilience building. Disasters affect women, girls, boys and men differently. In many contexts gender inequalities constrain the influence and control of women and girls over decisions governing their lives as well as their access to resources such as finance, food, agricultural inputs, land and property, technologies, education, health, secure housing and employment. They are more likely to be disproportionately affected and exposed to risks, increased loss of livelihoods, gender-based violence, and even lives during and in the aftermath of disasters. Studies show that ‘natural’ disasters kill more women due to structural gender inequality.
It is increasingly recognized and valued that women and girls – like men and boys – possess skills and capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from crisis. The capacity and knowledge of women and girls plays an important part in individual as well as community resilience. This is an important departure from traditional views of women and girls as inherently vulnerable and passive recipients of development and humanitarian assistance.
The international community has recognized the need for and has committed to a strong focus on gender equality and women’s rights in disaster risk reduction. However, despite progress in the implementation of Hyogo Framework for Action, this progress has not translated into systematic action and sustainable results for women’s rights and gender equality in disaster risk reduction efforts.
Disaster Impact on Gender Equality
Lack of research, sex and age dissagregated data and gender analysis regarding the impact of disaster on gender equality continues to impede proper understanding and accurate analysis of the gendered aspects of disasters and is thus rendering targeted mitigation through disaster risk reduction of the impact of disaster on women, girls, boys and men impossible.
Global reports such as the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) Global Estimates Reports, IFRC’s World Disasters Reports and databases such as the Emergency Events Database do not provide sex-and age-disaggregated data on human losses or affected people because such data is not collected by organisations and countries providing information for these resources. Furthermore, little research and analysis is available on the issue of differencial impact of disasters on women, girls, boys and men.
There is no systematic collection of sex and age disaggregated data on damages and losses in disasters. Damage and losses are usually recorded in terms of productive resources which tends to be owned by men. Recordings of material loss at household level, seldom even broken down to male/female headed households, hides important differences in losses between women and men. Losses in the informal sector and subsistence farming, predominated by women, are not often recorded as is the case for losses related to reproductive activities of women, all leading to a substantial undervalueration of the impact and opportunity cost for women3.