I have been working with Fran Luck, one of the co-hosts of WBAI‘s feminist program, Joy of Resistance, on news stories for several months. Archives of the stories are available here, and below is the text of story I just recorded on gender sensitive aid and the Haiti earthquake.
Since last week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, aid has begun to pour into the country from all over the world. Women’s rights NGOs are raising concerns about how immediate disaster relief and the subsequent period of recovery will address the unique needs of women.
As in any disaster, the women of Haiti are affected in different and deeper ways than men because of existing discrimination and poverty. Gender inequality raises a host of issues for disaster relief. For example, in addition to the central pillars of immediate aid, food, water, medical care and shelter, there are needs that are specific to women, including hygiene supplies and reproductive health care. The distribution of supplies requires careful thought if it is to be done justly and fairly. In everything from the units of aid distribution to the distribution sites themselves, special measures must be taken to ensure women’s full inclusion and even physical safety.
Sexual and physical assault become an increasingly pressing concern for women and girls in high-stress situations, and in a post-disaster context there is not often effective civil protection. According to Diana Duarte of MADRE, an international women’s rights NGO, women are “at increased risk of gender-based violence, especially domestic violence and rape” after a natural disaster.
As the response transitions from disaster management into rebuilding and recovery, it is increasingly important that women’s voices are heard and a gender perspective is including in planning and programs. As the Gender and Disaster Network points out, nothing in relief is “gender neutral.” Women are often left out of the decision-making process, and an active effort must be made to empower women to participate to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls are met.
Most of this story comes from the Feminist Peace Network (feministpeacenetwork.org) and the Gender and Disaster Network, whose website is gdnonline.org.