Role of women in Disaster preparedness
edited: Monday, December 10, 2007
By Mazumder Krishnadas Latha Prof Dr.
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2007
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BREAKING THE CHAKRAVYU FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS
“Breaking Barriers & Building Bridges”
“For our Nation’s Development”
Global pressures, competitive environment, continuous improvement in technology, emerging e-business, extranet, e-commerce, e-government, mobile computing etc have variably influenced and forced the Top notch business Gurus to re-engineer and change the business process for a better tomorrow. Yet, there is more to be done, when it comes to disaster preparedness. During the last 106 years India has witnessed many disasters. To establish itself as an economic power house in the global market, equal importance should be given to the role of Women in disaster preparedness activity. Disasters like floods, droughts, cyclones, hail storm, thunderstorm, tsunami, heat and cold wave has affected life in India and has a major impact on the socio economic status of the country. The information in this paper is compiled from various sources for the research community to analyze further on the barriers and challenges faced by women during disasters. Extreme conditions have always led to question of survival for women in most part of the world. Now, the world is witnessing Women as a powerful resource for development. It is now important to be proactive and take immediate measures in disaster preparedness activity. Gone are the days when gender inequality was the major issue. Now, women should understand that her attitude and positive approach can change things for better living and make the world a peaceful paradise. It is now time to break the barriers and build bridges for our Nation’s development.
Emerging issues related to women empowerment has made it compulsory to put gender equality at the top priority towards national development and international peace. It is time to review and make the necessary progress to achieve heights and pave way for the rest of the world to follow. The plans that turn into practice create groundbreaking framework for achieving equality between women and men.
What lies beyond 2006/07 is to be planned and acted upon. Recognizing the intensity of women empowerment and national development, the gender equality issue has taken the right dimensions in emphasizing more on security and development and stresses reducing poverty, protecting human rights and investing in sustainable development.
VIEWS: We have seen Women as ambassadors of peace, good health and also in playing a key role in reducing poverty and now it is time to highlight on the significant role Women can play for the safety and security of the nation at large by breaking all barriers and building bridges.
Women play a significant role in the three of the following major areas:
It is evident that a perfect balance between these goals and activities towards career growth and Home will lead her to contribute her best towards community development program. Time Management and good decisions will enable a woman to move forward and reach heights. There are many community development activities that may interest the Woman of Today. One such important area that needs immediate attention is the Role of Woman in disaster preparedness activity. Women have encountered many problems during disasters and during the recovery measures aftermath. Few facts and cases have been cited, so that we may be able to focus on the necessary action to be taken to break the barrier and build bridges for a secured Nation and economic growth of our Country.
In the past several years, India has suffered major disasters ranging from earthquakes in Gujarat (West) to tsunami in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu (South), heavy rains in the east and floods/explosions in Mumbai (Central) and man made disaster in the northern region. These disasters often cause severe and ongoing destruction in the form of water / fire/ storms, to human lives, cattle, buildings, cultural property, the most vulnerable being human lives and healthy living, and other material wealth. On such occasions, it is essential to be prepared and list out the lessons learnt from different experiences so as to make the public aware on information on disaster preparedness and management.
In order to facilitate a pro-active rather than reactive approach to disaster preparation with respect to human lives, four basic references on flood, tsunami, heavy rains, earth quakes and a background information on man made disaster have been updated and combined into this single article. This paper will provide sound introductory information to private individuals, women at the domestic level and public institutions in preparing for either small or large scale events. The paper presents guidelines for general facilities preparation and response to a variety of events both natural (storms, floods) and man-made (hazardous material accidents). The article addresses small scale events and procedures for the general public and women at the domestic level to be used for the immediate response action for any disaster forecasted. The article will have an insight of problems encountered by direct victims and precautionary measures to be taken in future to face the challenges put forth by way of natural calamities.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM RECENT FLOODS IN MUMBAI /CHENNAI AND THE TSUNAMI
Ignorance and Illiteracy a major barrier
Early Warning Systems May Fail To Reach Women
The habitants of the affected area were questioned on flood-related information – considering information sources and media, information content and timing, and about access to, relevance of, and understanding of information by women it was found that mostly the information about Flood (or drought) comes from a variety of sources:
public authorities through village public address system
radio or television
People visiting or returning to the prone area.
Neighbors who return from work located in the other parts of the city.
Beyond this no one interviewed could recall any other messages directly relating to the floods. Few women declared that they often did not hear public address announcements, either because their house was located in the interiors away from the main road or that the wind was blowing strong in the wrong direction, or that they were too busy in the house or out in the fields at the time of announcement.
Announcements and propaganda done by local political parties and small scale advertisers were increasing these days, so the emergency warning system faintly heard is sometimes mistaken as one of those local advertisements.
Villagers do however receive flood information from a various other sources and there is frequent exchange of information between villagers when they meet. As a result there is often contradictory information and a number of women said that they were often not sure what to believe. Radio and particularly television appeared to be trusted sources and many have always witnessed such disasters few days after the incident that is when they were informed by their male counterpart. As a generalization, men were more likely to have both time and the inclination to listen attentively to the radio and were much more likely to listen routinely. Many women said that even when the radio was on they were usually too busy with domestic tasks to listen, and when the news program was on they found it difficult to fully concentrate. Many women seemed to use television more as a means to keep children occupied while the carried on with other activities. A number of women said that they had difficulties understanding some of the language used in radio or television news broadcasts. The outcome of this disaster event has resulted in increased poverty, unemployment, very unpleasant situations and harsh economic conditions
Women from the rural areas are dependent and ignorant about the disasters.
Specific and exclusive medium should be used to warn the general public
High literary words and difficult phrases should be avoided when forecasting disasters through the radio and television media.
Bridging the gap for a better tomorrow
ROLE OF WOMEN IN DISASTER PREPAREDNESS
WHY GENDER DISPARITY?
WHY WOMEN ARE KEPT IN THE DARK?
WHAT ARE THE PRACTICAL PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED DURING RELIEF WORK?
Gender inequality keeps women at a disadvantage throughout their lives and stifles the development prospects of their societies. Illiterate and poorly educated mothers are less able to care for their children. Low education levels and responsibilities for household work prevent women from finding productive employment or participating in public decision making.
Some of the issues mentioned below clearly depict problems arising in the field due to gender differences and inequalities. They are helpful points about why gender matters, for both women and men.
FACTS FROM REAL LIFE DISASTER EVENTS
Lessons learnt from South Asian Region Experience - Cyclone
In the 1991 cyclone, warning signals did not reach large numbers of women within the home and as a result they died. In a highly sex-segregated society, warning information was transmitted by males to males in public spaces where males congregated on the assumption that this would be communicated to the rest of the family which by and large did not occur. Those who heard the warning ignored it because cyclones occurring after the 1970 disaster had not caused much destruction. In the ensuing procrastination, women who had comparatively less knowledge about cyclones and were dependent on male decision making, perished, many with their children, waiting for their husbands to return home and take them to safety.
Source: Jean D’Cunha. 1997. Engendering Disaster Preparedness and Management. Asian Disaster Management News 3 (3): 2-5.
This is because most women in villages even now rely on men to decide on such issues.
It is high time to educate women and train them to be independent and to enable them to develop a communication plan to face such a crisis.
Vulnerability Assessments May Exclude Local Women’s Knowledge
Lessons learnt about flood in Cambodia:
In one village, flood emergency aid distributions were arranged. One of these distributions involved the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) and the village chief was asked to provide a list of 40 vulnerable families who would go to the distribution site to collect their rice and emergency kits. Although villagers interviewed expressed reasonable agreement with those identified as the most vulnerable, it is clear that no other villagers, and specifically no women were involved in the compilation of the list and that all planning decisions were non-participatory. Further, that when the 40 identified villagers returned with their emergency assistance package, they in fact had then to divide it equally amongst the other villagers "to avoid jealousy".
Thus overall in terms of community response, women's involvement is limited principally to receiving emergency aid and in fulfilling community reconstruction duties. In the 2 villages studied women are poorly represented in all village structures, in local political structures and in decision-making bodies. Within the tradition there is also little allowance, if any, for the participation of women and so it is unlikely that these committees will consider fully the immediate needs of women and girls during an emergency, or any adequate response to their needs.
Source: Care International. 2002.
PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN IN DECISION MAKING POSITIONS
The below mentioned table shows the percentage of positions held by the women in decision making designations around the world according to the World Bank staff source in 1990 and 2003.
Source: World Bank staff estimates.
Around the world women are underrepresented in parliaments and other high-level decision making bodies. Women’s presence in public life has been rising, but in 2004 women still occupied only 16 percent of the seats in national parliaments. Women’s representation at the ministerial and executive levels of government is even lower.
Some countries have formal limitations on women’s voting rights and election. In others, women have only recently acquired rights to participate in elections. In some places political parties have quota systems for women’s representation in their governing bodies, and a few countries have quotas for women’s representation in parliaments. Few women in decision making positions
Responsibilities of Women are still Increasing.
Both [women and men] are concerned about family welfare and survival. However, if women are primarily responsible for water collection and household gardens, a drought will increase their work load immensely. Deforestation increases the workload of fuel collectors, usually women in villages. Recovery strategies and efforts to deal with the causes of drought and deforestation should always include the primary users of the basic resource—in these cases women.
Source: Mary Anderson and Peter Woodrow, 1989.
Natural disasters - particularly erosion and other forms of soil degradation, pollution of freshwaters, shore-line erosion, flooding, and loss of wetlands, drought and desertification - impact directly on women in their roles as providers of food, water and fuel. Climate change can also impact on women's productive roles since the physical impacts of global warming - rising sea levels, flooding in low-lying delta areas and increased salt-water intrusion - can jeopardize sustainable livelihood strategies. Food security and family well-being are threatened when the resource base on which women rely to carry out their critical roles and obtain supplementary incomes is undermined. Effective risk assessment and management require the active involvement of local communities and civil society groups to ensure decreased occurrence of disasters and reduced losses and costs when they do occur. The knowledge, contributions and potentials of both women and men need to be identified and utilized.
Source: Carolyn Hannon, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, “Mainstreaming gender perspectives in environmental management and mitigation of natural disasters.”-Statement to the panel on Disproportionate Impact of Natural Disasters on Women, January 2002.
SEX-SPECIFIC NEEDS MAY BE OVERLOOKED IN EMERGENCY RELIEF KITS
An experience from Turkish earthquake:
A crate full of sanitary pads was distributed. Within seconds, a long line formed for collecting the same. Once again, the crate had to be opened out of the boxes and each woman was given only five pads. It was a scene struck by sadness, the absurdity of handing out unconcealed pads to women most of who were covered in Islamic headscarves. They were supposed to walk home holding the things in their hands. One woman took what was handed out. "Do you know how difficult it is to be a woman in a tent?" she asked. "This isn't enough!" "I know," I said. "I'll try to find more." Was the reply the relief volunteer had to say. Source: Ustun Reinart 1999. Of Diapers and Tampons, Women's International Net newsletter, Issue 95A.
DISASTER LOSSES COMPOUND WOMEN’S VULNERABILITY
Incident from South Asia:
The ‘Daily Jang’ Pakistan (25.5.2000) reported about a father from a severe drought hit area of Baluchistan in Southern Pakistan, who brought his 15 year old daughter to be sold either as a domestic servant or as a bride for a few hundred rupees. With the money, he intended to feed the other members of the family who are dying from hunger. This incident alone reflect the desperation of the poor facing disasters and the manner in which extreme vulnerable and low social position of women is brought out to the open in such situations
Source: Madhavi Ariyabandu 2003.
WOMEN AND GIRLS ARE AT INCREASED RISK OF SEXUAL AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Women and girls are also reportedly more exposed to sexual and domestic violence in disaster contexts. Yet safe shelters for abused women, where they exist, are subject to damage and closure, as are informal networks of support. Women seeking shelter during cyclones have been exposed to sexual harassment and assault. Concerns were raised that children misidentified as cyclone ‘orphans’ were trafficked into sex work following the Orissa cyclone and the Gujarat earthquake. In Kafi’s ethnographic study of girls and women impoverished by South Asian cyclones and floods, lack of protection from male relatives for widows and other sole women was cited as one of the factors increasing the rate and fear of sexual assault. Girls in families forced by the losses of drought or cyclone to sell off dowry possessions may well be forced into early marriage and child labor increases when hard-hit families must send all members of the household out to work.
Source: E. Enarson, forthcoming from ILO, citing Enarson 1999a, Action Aid 2001, Shaw 1992, Kafi 1992.
DOMESTIC LABOR AND CARE GIVING RESPONSIBILITIES EXPAND
Example from Bangladesh:
Writing from South Asia, one observer remarked: “[T]heir children may have died and their homes and belongings were washed away but at the end of each day it was the wife/mother who had to cook for whoever survived in the family.” Women must be resourceful.
Source: E. Enarson, forthcoming from ILO citing Bari 1992 and Lovecamp forthcoming 2004.
A WOMAN’S ROLE: COMPROMISING WITH EVENTS?
The relief supplies delivered did not always address the needs of women’s responsibilities. For example, women cited problems with the food rations, as they had no access to income; they were unable to pay for the maize to be ground. They were therefore forced to sell some of the rations in order to pay for the maize to be ground.
Source: Gender and Disaster Management in Africa: Policy and Practice [draft], forthcoming from UN ISDR/ HABITAT
Women’s role in Building Bridges
The Shakthi path…After breaking the Chakravyu
Awaken the power within you!
“What lies behind you and What lies before you is Nothing when compared to What is within you!!!!!”
WHAT WOMEN CAN DO FOR WOMEN FOR DISASTER PREPARATION MEASURES
1. Joint ventures with NGO’s, government during reconstruction
2. Group learning: sharing hard-won lessons
3. Entrepreneurship Development
4. Improving living conditions by self help
5. Fair and ethical source to clarify women rights
6. Restructuring the community
7. Identifying disaster prone zones and train on checklist
8. Assessing vulnerability and capacity in risky environments
9. Guidelines on coping with hazards
10. Working with women to increase resilience
11. Promoting sustainable living
12. Educating the community and taking THE INITIATIVE
13. Protecting environmental resources
14. Communicating and networking
15. Developing a family communication plan and safety kit.
16. Planning on disaster relief and distribution
17. Working and training with youngsters and children
18. Sharing expertise and peer group discussions
19. Organizing volunteers to reduce risk
20. Networking to share resources and abilities
21. Keeping memory alive
22. Advocating for help
23. Working with men to reduce post-disaster abuse
24. Building on strengths and Changing Challenges as opportunities
25. Advocate for women’s empowerment during reconstruction
26. Fair relief
27. Women helping women/children/Men directly
28. Meeting urgent needs through women’s groups
29. Sharing strengths and capacity
30. Women empowering women by way of role model/motivation
31. Gender-fair practices in disaster relief: international cases
32. Involving community women in decision making practice
33. Involving community women in research
34. Challenging gender and age stereotypes
35. Developing women’s skills in recovery initiatives
36. Responding to men as men in disasters
37. Partnering with women’s organizations
38. Meeting women’s needs for income
39. Training young women
40. Integrating development and risk reduction goals.
Listed after thorough analysis and interpretation of notes
General Solutions for Disaster preparedness
First Step to get started: Tips for Disaster preparedness
1. Identify what can happen in your community. Once you have determined the events possible and their potential in your community, it is important that you discuss them with your family or household. Develop a disaster plan together according to the possible disaster that might strike your area.
• Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.
• Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case.
• Pick two places to meet:
1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
• Ask an out-of-state friend to be your "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact's phone number.
2. Choose an “out-of-town contact” for your family or household to call or e-mail, to check on each other should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has that contact's, and each other's, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers (home, work, pager and cell). Leave these contact numbers at your children's schools, if you have children, and at your workplace. Your family should know that if telephones are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try e-mail. Many people flood the telephone lines when emergencies happen but e-mail can sometimes get through when calls don't.
3. Establish a meeting place.
4. Copies of essential documents-like powers of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your will-should also be kept in a safe location outside your home. 4. Check on the school emergency plan of any school-age children you may have.
If Disaster Strikes
• Remain calm and be patient.
• Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
• Listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.
• If the disaster occurs near you, check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
• If the disaster occurs near your home while you are there, check for damage using a flashlight. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
• Shut off any other damaged utilities.
• Confine or secure your pets.
If local authorities ask you to leave your home, they have a good reason to make this request, and you should heed the advice immediately. Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of local emergency officials and keep these simple tips in mind-
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster until help arrives. If you're a member of a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce disaster preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbors' special skills (e.g., medical, technical) and consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for child care in case parents can't get home.
More Community Involvement can help Women come out of this grave situation. Community involvement in the camps has been formalized in community committees that have been set up in each camp. These committees include representation of women as well as village elders to coordinate decision making in the camps. These are a particularly good example of formal involvement of women enabling more gender balanced decision making structure in disaster response. These committees can also be identified as an important means for longer term empowerment and involvement of women in communities. Many of the villages in the camps did not have women on their traditional village councils. However, after being involved in village governance in the camps, the women stated that they would push to be involved on the village councils once they return to their home areas. It should be noted however, that women interviewed stated that they were more likely to take their concerns to a male member of the committee, as they wielded greater influence and were therefore more likely to be able to assist. Decision making on these committees is based on a single vote per member, and women made up for a very few percentage when compared to their male counterparts of members on committees surveyed. In addition, women took positions of responsibility including assistant chairperson, health and sanitation coordinator and security coordinator. This is a particularly important example of how policy can guide the development of gender sensitive structures that will have longer term impacts both on the effectiveness of the disaster response and management, but also on gender equality more broadly.
Victims of disaster
1. Emotional Balance
2. Calm and composed state of mind
3. Life skills
4. Ability to recall and tolerate
5. Well prepared for any unpleasant situations
6. Re-engineer the entire set up.
7. Accommodate any change in the pattern of life.
Our Role - Fighting for a good cause -Essential values for fighting against such calamities as a Corporate Social Responsibility measure
BREAKING THE BARRIER AND MOVING TOWARDS HARMONY AND PEACE BY BUILDING OVERALL CONTEMPORARY VALUE SYSTEM
It is possible to achieve heights and break barriers to build bridges only if there is a positive attitude and a value system within.
ESSENTIAL VALUE SYSTEM TO BREAK THE BARRIER GLOBALLY
AT HOME AND AT OFFICE
THE SIX PILLARS OF CHARACTER
- Reliability (Promise-keeping)
- Civility, Courtesy and Decency
- Dignity and Autonomy
- Tolerance and Acceptance
- Pursuit of Excellence
THE SEVEN-STEP PATH TO BETTER DECISIONS
1. Stop and Think
2. Clarify Goals
3. Determine Facts
4. Develop Options
5. Consider Consequences
7. Monitor and Modify
Essentials for success in Profession
within the Code of International Organizations
Honesty & Integrity
Knowledge & Competencies
Compliance & Risk
Initiative & leadership
Creative & innovative
Focused on action plan
Good team player
Whether or not we realize it at the time, all our words, actions and attitudes reflect choices. A foundation to good decision-making is acceptance of two core principles:
1. We all have the power to decide what we do and what we say, and
2. We are morally responsible for the consequences of our choices.
The key to making effective decisions is to think about choices in terms of their ability to accomplish our most important goals. This means we have to understand the difference between immediate and short-term goals and longer-range goals.
Building Bridges for a better working atmosphere-By Breaking the barrier
BALANCING BETWEEN CAREER, HOME AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Mounting expectations at office
Balancing relationships at work
Organizational Goals and personal goals
Solutions: Time Management and good decision.
Analyse and list out your assignments
(Manage your time. Get it all done)
Not Important 2
Important but not Urgent 3
Neither important nor Urgent Just for pleasure 4
Good Decisions Are both Ethical and Effective
Ethical Decisions: A decision is ethical when it is consistent with the Six Pillars of Character – ethical decisions generate and sustain trust; demonstrate respect, responsibility, fairness and caring; and are consistent with good citizenship. If we lie to get something we want and we get it, the decision might well be called effective, but it is also unethical.
Effective Decisions: A decision is effective if it accomplishes something we want to happen, if it advances our purposes. A simple test is: are you satisfied with the results? A choice that produces unintended and undesirable results is ineffective.
For example, if we make a casual remark to make someone feel good but it makes him feel bad instead, we were ineffective. If we decide to do something we really don’t want to do just to please a friend and the decision ends up getting us in serious trouble, it’s ineffective.
Conclusion: There has to be a route map beyond 2006/07 Recognizing the intensity of women empowerment and national development, the gender equality issue has taken the right dimensions in emphasizing more on security and development and stresses reducing poverty, protecting human rights and investing in sustainable development. Women as ambassadors of peace, good health play a key role in reducing poverty and now they will play a significant role for the safety and security of the nation at large by breaking all barriers and building bridges.
Simple Living….Humble beginning…….Puposeful operations and Missions………Meaningful Outcome…..We can ! We will ! We should! To meet a Universal Challenge- Break the Barriers and Build Bridges.-A cause for Mankind.
Perle, Stephen (March 11, 2004). Morality and Ethics: An Introduction. Retrieved on 2007-02-13.
Butchvarov, Panayot. Skepticism in Ethics (1989).
The Contemporary Conflict of Values Jiang Chang, Feng Jun
www.unisdr.org,www.eird.org (Elaine Enarson
Collaborated with the ISDR secretariat in compiling
Web Site: Disaster preparedness-Role of Women and Children
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