Disaster Mitigation and Furthering Women's Rights: Learning from the Tsunami


Akerkar, Supriya. 2007. “Disaster Mitigation and Furthering Women’s Rights: Learning from the Tsunami.” Gender, Technology and Development 11 (3): 357–88. doi:10.1177/097185240701100304.

Author: Supriya Akerkar


Vulnerability has long been accepted as an important factor in post-disaster recovery which affects the ability of the survivors to recover from multi-dimensional impacts. This comparative and cross-cultural study of the effects of tsunami on women in four countries looks more closely into the factors and processes that have led to the exclusion of certain groups of women from relief and recovery assistance. These include female heads of households, widows, the elderly and those belonging to marginalized groups such as migrants and stateless communities. Examining the current gender-neutral framing of social protection systems in the disaster areas and their operations, I show that vulnerability is not only an outcome of localized and individual dimensions like age, gender and marital status but that they have deeper relations with national and global powers who perpetuate institutionalized discrimination through such systems, and how they are unable to give these groups of women the much needed protection and assistance to live with dignity. A case is made for the recognition of compounded discrimination based on the fact that their vulnerable positions prior to the disaster have indeed led to their exclusion from relief and recovery activities, leaving them poorer and worst-off. Further, to redress this trend I propose a women's human rights strategy in disaster management which adopts as its core a combination of the recognition of vulnerability derived from identities with corres- ponding gender-based redistributive principles to be integrated in policies, practices and social protection systems. As a discursive construct, the women’s human rights approach in disasters would not only reduce the vulnerability of disaster survivors but also create new gender-just post-disaster societies.

Topics: Age, Environment, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Women, Humanitarian Assistance

Year: 2007

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