This review sets out evidence of the impact that disasters have on women, adolescent girls and girls. It identifies initiatives and investments that have been developed to address or mitigate these. Available data, though limited, indicates that women are more likely to die than men after a large scale disaster. This is due to social and cultural reasons and existing gender norms, rather than biological ones. As gender norms vary by country and culture, in some contexts men may be more vulnerable because of their greater risk taking behaviour. However, women and girls tend to have less access to or control over assets, including the resources necessary to cope with hazardous events, such as information, education, health and wealth, their vulnerability is in general relatively greater than men’s.
Another key measure is material loss. This is generally measured as loss of infrastructure, services and trade. Household loss, apart from housing and agricultural land, is seldom measured. As men tend to hold title to both, it is male losses that are recorded; those experienced by women, such as the loss of kitchen utensils and appliances, sewing machines and small animals, are seldom assessed, rendering them invisible.
Women and girls also experience more intangible losses – e.g. the loss of health and wellbeing. They are subject to a number of secondary or indirect impacts that arise from the event, including violence and trauma, pressure to marry early, loss or reduction in education opportunities, and an increase in their workload.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) covers a range of acts including subordination, exploitation, disempowerment and deprivation, which may be triggered by or exacerbated by a disaster but generally resides in the everyday lived reality of women and girls. In the short term, humanitarian actions need to respond to violence and protect the vulnerable, while in the long term, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and development must tackle the root causes.
Women and girls also display a wealth of capacities before, during and after disasters. Although they are often denied the opportunity to engage in formal disaster risk reduction actions, evidence suggests when women are responsible for early warnings, for example, disaster losses can be substantially reduced.
Specific actions for DFID to support the key recommendations made in the report include:
- Promote the systematic inclusion of generating gender and age disaggregated data and analysis in DFID-financed research and evidence investments (such as through the Humanitarian Innovation and Evidence Programme, and RED’s climate change research);
- Make use of its current co-chairing role of the Consultative Group of GFDRR to promote greater focus on gender issues within GFDRR investments, including making sure its monitoring and evaluation framework specifically looks at the impacts its investments directly or indirectly have on women and girls;
- Promote integration of gender issues in disaster resilience-related programmes, including promoting/requiring the generation of gender disaggregated data and analysis, and the monitoring and evaluation of the specific impacts these investments have on women and girls;
- Promote greater attention to the specific needs, interests and roles of women and girls in the successor framework to the HFA and promote the resilience-linked target within Goal 1 of the HLP’s illustrative goals, as well as continue to promote the inclusion of GDRR targets in the post-2015 framework;
- Explore how the International call to action on violence against women and girls in emergencies announced by the Secretary of State for International Development in March 2013 can promote these issues and secure necessary commitments from key humanitarian agencies, donors and NGOs to protect women and girls from violence;
- Use the Political Champions Group to promote this issue amongst the business practices of those within the Group and with others. Particular emphasis could be given to promoting this issue within its country and regional-level engagement, such as in Haiti, as well as its work with the private sector;
- Promote greater links between disaster resilience, preparedness and climate change adaptation teams in DFID on taking up these issues;
- Demand a much greater focus and attention during risk assessments on assessing the specific vulnerabilities faced by women and girls and the extent to which these are being addressed by governments, donors and agencies;
- Develop guidance (and resources) to support the inclusion of gender issues in DFID-financed, resilience-linked programmes (including in business cases) and into Country Office disaster resilience strategies generated as part of the embedding process;
- Develop a set of best practice case studies on how DFID or other donors/agencies have integrated gender issues in programmes.
Looking to the future, environmental stress, financial and food crises, migration and rapid urbanisation are all factors that will impact on the magnitude of future ‘disasters’ and how they are experienced by women and men, girls and boys and in turn disasters will have an impact on them. GDRR needs to be understood as a cross cutting issue and a key development concern.