A Gender Sensitive Policy Framework for Disaster Management in Bangladesh

Citation:

Ahmed, Shammi. 2019. "A Gender Sensitive Policy Framework for Disaster Management in Bangladesh." PhD diss., Victoria University.

Author: Shammi Ahmed

Abstract:

Bangladesh has been hit by many catastrophic natural disasters where flooding has become a recurring phenomenon. Such flooding events have particularly severe consequences for relatively poor communities and within these communities’ women tend to be more vulnerable than men. Women’s development and gender issues have increasingly gained prominence and realization of importance (King and Mason 2001). It’s been recognized that empowerment of women is essential in addressing poverty and advancing development. The governments often are, however, shy on placing priority on women’s development and welfare. This particularly applies to times of crisis or disasters, where gender concerns are argued to be a luxury that can only be addressed after the more important matters (IFRC 2006). The socio-economic context in Bangladesh has created a situation where women’s status and roles in a patriarchal society puts them in more vulnerability during the natural disaster as women face particular challenges in fulfilling their traditional roles in regard to gathering food, water, fuel; childcare, livestock as well as pursue diverse sources of income to sustain their households. Several international scholars have noted that a lack of sensitivity to the needs of women has meant that disaster relief and recovery operations have sometimes made things worse for women in the wake of natural disasters.

The research aim is twofold: First to investigate the challenges that women face during flooding events and the effectiveness of disaster relief and recovery work of government and non-government agencies and reflect on their disaster relief policies and its implications. Second, to investigate whether rural community women are disadvantaged compared to urban community women and address the gaps that may exists.

The study focuses on the experiences of women living through natural disasters in two different floodprone communities in Bangladesh; a remote rural community in Munshigonj and an urban community living in Tongi Area, within the vicinity of Dhaka. Predominantly, a qualitative methodology using case study approach was applied. Two modes of data were collected: a survey questionnaire that provided the details of economic conditions (agricultural activities) and demography of the two selected districts; individual face-to-face interviews and focus groups with rural and urban women that have been affected by the floods. In-depth face-to-face interviews were also conducted from the relief agencies as well as government employees and local district leaders.

The findings of the study show that the rural-urban divide is less important than many have predicted and that other factors such as the duration of the flood—is more significant. For example, the study found that lack of money and other resources makes it extremely difficult for women to sustain their coping mechanisms for the duration of a major flooding and the exhaustion of their meagre resources makes it hard for them to rebuild their home and their livelihoods after the flood waters have subsided. This has implications for how and when disaster relief and recovery should be delivered, and the study draws on its case study findings to suggest ways in which government and non-government disaster relief and recovery work in Bangladesh should be made more gender-sensitive.

The findings also showed that the number of agencies involved in disaster relief and recovery work in Bangladesh has multiplied in recent years and this makes it harder to ensure that consistent policies and practices are followed. Despite the participation of various organizations in disaster prevention, survival and recovery, there is absence of women sensitive policies that addresses women’s specific challenges. These findings not only have implications for Bangladesh but draws attention for international significance. Several future directions for research are developed based on the findings.

Topics: Development, Environment, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Women, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Bangladesh

Year: 2019

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