Women as Recovery Enablers in the Face of Disasters in Vanuatu


Clissold, Rachel, Ross Westoby, and Karen E. McNamara. 2020. "Women as Recovery Enablers in the Face of Disasters in Vanuatu." Geoforum 113: 101-10.

Authors: Rachel Clissold, Ross Westoby, Karen E. McNamara


Women have been framed as both passive victims and resourceful, dynamic actors in the face of acute and gradual disasters. Researchers and practitioners have highlighted the importance of resourcing and strengthening the diverse capacities and roles of women and women’s groups to avoid undermining disaster recovery prospects. Despite this, women’s voices, experiences and skills in disaster recovery, reconstruction and resilience often remain poorly acknowledged, underutilised and largely undocumented in regions like the Pacific. This paper provides insights into the situated and nuanced post-disaster experiences and strategies of ni-Vanuatu women, who are geographically in the most at-risk location globally. Drawing on ten focus groups, we found that, while recovering from the impacts of Cyclone Pam and the severe drought that followed, women demonstrated their critical roles as capital mobilisers, collectivising and leading forces, innovators and entrepreneurs. Despite being central recovery enablers, women continue to operate in, and be burdened by, a gendered and inequitable system. We, therefore, warn that disaster recovery praxis that resources and utilises women’s strengths must include efforts to improve women’s wellbeing, agency, livelihoods and prospects. This must be done through challenging underlying vulnerabilities and gender norms, and avoiding further burdens on women’s workloads.

Keywords: gender, resilience, disaster recovery, disaster response, Pacific Islands, Cyclone Pam

Topics: Environment, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Livelihoods Regions: Oceania Countries: Vanuatu

Year: 2020

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