Gender Integrated DRR

Gender3The power relations between men and women in families influence societies, cultures, national policies and practices and also get influenced by them. Brutal economic and power politics for thousands of years of this phase of human civilization have strengthened men’s unreasonable authority and privileges.

It is an undisputed fact that most of the world’s private resources are in the hands of men. This is more profound in South Asia.

A World Bank study says, women labour produce 70-80 percent of the crops grown in India, in another report by International Labour Organisation suggests, eighty percent of all economically active women in India work in agriculture and only twenty percent of them own a few land.

Gender4That most of them who own a piece of land, own because there are no adult men in the family who would inherit the land. Although women take up harder and more number of activities on the farm they are always considered as supportive and their contribution to the economy is often undervalued. As the key decision making is in the hands of men, over the years our institutional structures did not recognise women as productive contributors to the economy.

Sociological studies say, women were the actual masters of the land. It was their decisions that mattered. But the technology seems to have altered the scenario. When it was hard to till the land and cultivate, men were engaged in hunting and food gathering. They entered the agriculture with the innovation of new instruments like plough as it required their support. Soon they began to control production tools and the production itself, and women retreated to supportive roles. Because men control the production, they are considered as the bread winner and women as dependent, despite all their contributions.

Several other studies also sum up that technological innovations generally benefited men while creating unemployment and marginalising the women’s role in the society. The world watch paper laments, that the agricultural strategies such as green revolution have marginalised rural women instead of increasing the food crops and domestic food productions which have been otherwise women’s domain.

In the same vein, the disaster risk reduction knowledge, tools, policies and practices for many decades have failed to recognize women’s role in the families and societies, women specific vulnerabilities, women specific needs before and after disasters and women’s unique capacities in disaster recovery and risk reduction.

The tools for vulnerability assessment developed by many organizations and institutions adopted a single window approach, which in turn was based on men’s way of looking at disasters. Until 1990s, gender integration in disaster risk reduction was not even discussed by many agencies internally and externally.

Even though many agencies have committed themselves on the need for gender integrated disaster risk reduction, the real practice remains half hearted and its impact on the ground remains insignificant. It is important to understand and addressing the day to day gender rooted livelihood and social concerns of women in the disaster risk reduction processes, so women becomes empowered and in position to identify and solve their own problems at the time of crisis.

Key Message: Disaster risk reduction programs need to make far more in-depth and practical efforts, and scrutinize the real complexities of disaster induced vulnerabilities, as they vary for men and the women. It must be inclusive of people across all social classes in every vulnerable geographic areas, and not just restricted to a single project or a region.  

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