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It was only over the past three to four decades that the role of women within the academic world began to be recognized. Their role and participation in our country started to be recognized about three to four decades ago but up until then, there were professions as well as matters that were considered off-limit to woman. This was mainly because of their gender. Mockingly, Virginia Wolf (as cited by Penelope, 1993:192) wrote in one of her essays that it has been for long common knowledge that women do exist within different societies, bearing children and different in aspects like physical appearances, sex, masculinity and femininity from men and many other aspects.
Focused on examining how gender is instrumental within the concept of disaster risk reduction, the following essay aims on examining the role gender has within the context of hazards, exposure and vulnerability when it comes to disaster risk reduction.
Scott, (2001:43-70) explained gender as something that is fluid.
Breaking it down into two core concepts, the first definition of gender was that gender is a contractive element of social relationships based on the perceived differences between sexes and secondly gender was explained as a primary way of signifying relationships of power. Scott (2001:47-70) gender was historically used to categorize human beings under three categories namely masculine, feminine and neuter. It can then be concluded that the introduction of gender within disaster assessment is unethical because man or woman, boy or girl no one is immune to disasters.
The concept of gender was introduced into DRR with purposes to aid on the process of assessing the implications for different social groups with regards to planned actions, policies, programs as well as legislations when it comes to reducing the impacts and risks of disasters (Armenia, 2011:11). Furthermore, Armenia (2011:11-12) indicates that the concept of gender mainstreaming is introduced into DRR accounts for the combination of gender perspectives as well as gender analysis methodologies into disaster risk reduction methods.
A large and growing body of literature has invested in analyzing the concept of disaster risk reduction. Explanation of the above mentioned concept is achieved through a systematic analysis of several aspects namely hazards, exposure, capacity and vulnerability through a carefully formulated equation. According to the Sandai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) disaster risk reduction is a conceptualization of averting upcoming disasters as well as managing or minimizing disasters that have already occurred through a systematic integration of environmental, technological, political, legal, social, cultural and many other institutional measures that account for the regulation and elimination of exposure and vulnerability to disasters. Furthermore, disaster risk reduction is aimed on strengthening resilience as well as preparedness and readiness to disasters. The whole process of disaster risk reduction is a summarization of articulating the nature and extent of disasters as well as possible mitigation ways. As indicted above, disaster risk reduction is achieved through various concepts hazards, capacity, exposure and vulnerability which will be explained briefly in the following section.
According to the ICSU Regional Office for Africa Science Plan (2007) hazards can be both natural and human-induced. Defined as an event or phenomenon that is either human induced or natural, a hazard is an event that may cause loss or injury to human life. In addition to the above explanation, Ginige et al. (2008:552-553) indicate that hazards are known to be sudden events accompanied by disruption and loss within the natural and social world. McEntire (2001:1) provides an in-depth explanation of hazards through indicating that every hazard either natural or human induced occurs through a sequence that involves triggers and a set of vulnerabilities that alters societal functioning. This implies that human life and their livelihoods, infrastructure as well as the environment are significantly mutilated owing to their degree of vulnerability.
As indicated in the Sandai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) vulnerability is intertwined with the concept of capacity and exposure for better understanding. Van Niekerk (2011:8) explains vulnerability as a combination of exposure to hazards resulting in insufficient capacity to cope with the negativity that comes after. In 2007, the IPCC published a paper on vulnerability indicating that the extent to which both the social and natural world fail to cope with hazards or different changes occurring is conceptualized as vulnerability. This was further enlightened in the 2012 publication by the IPCC that vulnerability is the susceptibility to be tremendously affected by hazards as well as various changes that poses immense threat to people and the environment.
It is a necessity to clarify what is meant by exposure but according to Wesner et al. (2003:17) the meaning of exposure alters in relation to different people’s exposure to risk. This implies that aspects such as class, gender, age, ethnic group and many others are of great contribution when it comes to assessing the exposure of people to a potential risk. According to the United Nations Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (2009) exposure is the conceptualization of potential loss that occurs to people, systems and properties in hazardous zones. Furthermore, the group mentioned above indicated that exposure is measured according to the number of people or any other potential aspect within the area experiencing hazard.
The fourth concept that is articulated within the explanation of vulnerability is capacity. According to Mulugeta et al. (2007:24) available strength and resources within an area exposed to risk or disaster can reduce the level of vulnerability. This implies that the combination of institutional, social, physical or economic effort as well as skilled personnel poses the capacity and are capable of mitigating risk. Capacity can also be explained as the integrative methodology of strength, resources and qualities existing within a designated area readily available to reduce, prevent or mitigate hazardous situations. This implies that capacity will possibly be the physical efforts, organizations, coping capabilities of the society and general skills and knowledge from the inhabitance of the society to function regularly in the face of disasters (United Nations Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2009).
Gender mainstreaming has been identified as a major contributing factor in mitigating risk of disasters as well as vulnerability. According to Armenia (2011:38) the concept of gender mainstreaming was initially fabricated in the year 1985 in Nairobi during the Third World Conference regarding women. With its development, several plans of assessing the implication of different gender roles such as legislations, policies and programs where set to motion. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations argue that gender equality is a fundamental part of increased resilience to disasters. This implies that there are specific needs for women and girls as well as their constructive role within the stream DRR and resilience building. Gender mainstreaming into DRR implies that both men and women receive disaster-related training and in so doing they share leadership roles and different knowledge of vulnerability as well as enhanced resilience methodologies (Habtezion, 2016:2).
UNDP as cited by Armenia (2011:38) explains gender mainstreaming as an act of considering gender equality anxieties when drafting policies, administrative and monetary accomplishments as well as programs that contribute to the transformation and improvement of risk reduction. This approach or integration is seen as an attempt or strategy aimed at bringing about gender equality though provision of a platform for both men and women in organizations and communities that subsidize the process of sustainable development. Furthermore, Habtezion (2016:6) accounts for the incorporation of gender i.e. gender mainstreaming into adaptation strategies of Disaster Risk Reduction amongst the society as a whole with reasons that the collaboration will lead to greater equitability, sustainability and effectiveness. In a nutshell, gender mainstreaming within Disaster Risk Reduction in an adaptation approach for climate change adaptability as well as a methodology for achieving sustainable improvement in gender equality and disaster resilience.
Like any other development strategy, gender mainstreaming is aimed on achieving specifies goals and objectives. Armenia (2011:38-40) state that the concept of gender mainstreaming was fabricated in order to accommodate both men and women as benefactors of developments within the DRR field as well as to decipher how their rights are interpreted relative to each other’s. In addition to accommodating both men and women, gender mainstreaming is as well aimed on accounting for equal resource distribution and control as well as verdict presentation within all stages of development by both genders in DRR. The most unique aspect of gender mainstreaming is that it does not only begin and end with women within the field of DRR, it does not only account for equality it is more about assessing the implications that the two different genders bring forth on any planned actions, policies and legislations regardless of the area and level in question.
Gender mainstreaming is an approach designed for acknowledging various concerns levitated by men and women as well as their familiarities and fundamental views on designs, enactments and observations of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres in order to account for equal benefits for both men and women. Unambiguously, gender mainstreaming entails bringing the outcome of gendered socio-economic as well as policy exploration into all decision-making procedures of the organization. In concluding remarks, one can say gender mainstreaming is guided more by a holistic approach intended on empowering the welfare of people regardless of their gender (Armenia, 2011:38-40).
The ISDR, UNDP and IUCN published a paper in 2009 outlining the hindrances that are intertwined with gender mainstreaming introduction into DRR. All these challenges begin with poor understanding or misinterpretation of gender within DRR. Aimed on addressing concerns for both men and women as well as the root of all the imbalances that are experienced by different gender roles, it is not always easy because most if not all institutions that deal with such matters are marginalized. The marginalization of gender has a negative effect on gender mainstreaming, this implies that all gender related issues come to be routinely treated as ‘just women’s issues’ and therefore are they are treated in isolation from DRR. Regardless of gender becoming more noticeable in the fields of DRR, it continues to be acknowledged as something that is an ‘add on’ rather than an integral component to aid in the advancing of DRR.
Furthermore, in an analysis of gender mainstreaming the ISDR, UNDP and IUCN (2009:18-20) established the lack of unpretentious political accountability and financial capitals accounting for global encouragement and action for gender within Disaster Risk Reduction. This is an indication that the inclusion of gender or the mainstreaming of gender in DRR remains more of a theory than practical work. The results of all these is that gender mainstreaming in DRR rests on an unrestricted choice lacking liability, checks and balances and proprietorship with no commitment. The absence of official and discrete capability, as well as the apparatuses for mainstreaming gender into DRR, remain possessed only by a moderately lesser cluster of professionals which lessens the progress. This as well implies that the knowledge essential for addressing gender matters in DRR is relatively scarce.
Importance of gender mainstreaming to DRR
According to Ginige et al. (2008:559) the integration of gender mainstreaming into DRR is highly appreciated because of the partnership that is said to thrive between men and women. This cooperation enables both parties to involve themselves wholly in societal programs for development. Having discussed Disaster Risk Reduction as well as the concept of mainstreaming gender into the field, it is of great importance to understand the concept does not only account for equality. Gender mainstreaming has been in the essay articulated as a women drive methodology centered on the grounds that men and women’s roles and relationships in DRR should be analyzed within the overall gendered socio-economic and cultural context. The inclusion of gender mainstreaming in DRR is important because it has resulted in long-term pre-emptive approaches to risk, exposure, vulnerability, reduction and mitigation. Furthermore, the gender mainstreaming is regarded as a necessity for achieving sustainable development.
According to Ginige et al. (2008:557-558) gender mainstreaming into disaster risk reduction is of importance because it is through this process that unbiased disaster resilience is achieved by both genders through indorsing amplified awareness of the importance of reducing disasters. Furthermore, gender mainstreaming supplies the man power required to increase the public awareness to understanding disasters, vulnerability, reduction as well as their risk from both the women and men perspective. Through gender mainstreaming, both men and women have the authority to influence, participate and as well benefit from strategies and processes developed for DRR. Ginige et al. (2008:559-561) indicated that mainstreaming gender into DRR is important for reasons that it promotes equality, helps moderate the impact of disasters and as well integrate gender analysis in all methods of reduction and mitigation. Through the consideration of detailed need and interests of vulnerable women and those who were vulnerable gender mainstreaming brings about equality within the field of disaster management (Ginige et al. 2008:558-561).
Disasters, which causes disorder in a society occur with colossal damage to human life, environment and economic resources and the most outstanding part of their occurrence is that men and woman are differently affected. It is world held view that women are more vulnerable disasters in comparison to men because of their socially constructed roles. Owing to these observations, it became seeming that gender equality is a priority in disaster reduction as well as in developing gendered approaches and perspectives in all regulations, policies and techniques executed in disaster management framework.
Gender mainstreaming in disaster reduction permits a decreased vulnerability for women through recognizing their detailed needs at the disaster management planning stage. In order to achieve these, women have significant authority vested upon them by gender mainstreaming to grasp the concept of equality in decision making roles in disaster reduction. In a nutshell, gender mainstreaming enables a fair achievement for both genders through outlining inclusive considerate policies and measures developed for disaster reduction with respect for different gender roles existing in a given society. Finally there is, therefore, a definite need for understanding the relationship that prevails amongst DRR and gender. This implies that highlighting all the important aspects of gender within the context of reducing the impact of disaster and as well accommodate women in decisions and construction of mitigation and reduction policies and strategies towards a safer environment.
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