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Lessons from South Asia

(En)Gender Inclusive Disaster Management

Women and Disasters in South Asia: Survival, Security and Development edited by Linda Racioppi and Swarna Rajagopalan, Routledge India, 2016; pp 318, 1,050.

The differential roles of women, men, girls and boys are powerful forces in every culture, especially in South Asia. These culturally constructed gender roles, and stereotypes about what men and women can and cannot do, or should and should not do can contribute to different types and levels of exposure and vulnerability to natural hazard impacts. In addition, disasters and the resulting post-disaster response can often launch communities into power dynamics and patterns of hierarchy that favour the decisions of men over women. Yet, the abilities and capacities of women and men to mitigate disasters consistently are one of the weakest areas of humanitarian responses that need to be explored and incorporated into disaster reduction policies and practices.

This weakness of not recognising gender differences is taken seriously by the anthology under review. It is a compilation of 13 articles covering an array of disasters in South Asia, over a seven-year span. The book is the product of collaboration between activists, field workers and academicians to highlight the fact—through the voices of South Asian women, sexual minorities and others—that recovery and development are gendered. It thereby attempts to formulate better responses by adopting a gendered perspective. The book not only highlights lessons but also provides a few tried-and-tested solutions for achieving equal participation of women in decision-making and presents approaches for integrating a gender perspective into disaster risk reduction strategies. It reiterates the fact that unless relief workers and officials acknowledge women’s vulnerable status and plan relief efforts accordingly, women and other vulnerable groups will continue to be disproportionately affected by natural disasters.

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Updated On : 24th May, 2017


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