Framing Disaster Resilience: The Role of Women in Disaster Response

Title: 1320 | Framing Disaster Resilience: The Role of Women in Disaster Response
Area: Northeast Asia
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Paola Cavaliere, School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, Japan (organizer, chair, presenter)
Junko Otani, Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, Japan (presenter, discussant)
Yiuxan Chen, Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, Japan (presenter)


This panel examines women’s active participation in community-based post-disaster recovering efforts and activities. Drawing upon qualitative, quantitative and participatory research techniques, each panelist will present case studies to demonstrate how women’s situatedness within the community contributes to building resilience while promoting gender-sensitive responsive activities. With her research on women affiliates’ post-disaster response and recovery activities, Dr Cavaliere shows how local faith communities have served as a strong foundation for provision of support and resilience in the aftermath of Kumamoto earthquakes in 2016. By intersecting gender and age factors in the social capital framework, Prof. Otani’s work shows that the current demographic trend of a higher proportion of females in the ageing population might increase men victims’ disaster vulnerability because of their lack of social capital. A measure of this is in Ms Chen’s doctoral work on community resilience in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake (2008) in China, where mothers and elderly women’s social capital and active participation in community reconstruction activities compensated their gender-based vulnerability. Overall, our research looks for ways to contribute to discussion on how to strengthen local and international responses to disaster by better informed policies and well-designed, context-responsive practice that include models of disaster management harnessing women’s capacities and resilience that exist within and across communities.

Panel Abstracts:
Framing Disaster Resilience: Women in Faith-based Disaster Response to the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes
Disaster risk reduction (DRR) global initiatives as well as the Japan’s Basic Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction include gender-sensitive and gender-inclusive approaches into their disaster management strategies. Such DRR guidelines recognise that in the context of persistent social norms that assign women responsibility for the domestic domain, the participation of women in disaster preparedness and disaster response is seen as being essential for the reduction of disaster risk. Drawing upon qualitative data (2016~2020) of religious-based post-disaster relief and support activities performed by women of Sōka Gakkai and GLA (God Light Association) in the aftermath of the two Kumamoto earthquakes in April 2016, this study shows that the persistent gender blindness within Japanese institutional post-seismic intervention measures intensifies women’s vulnerability. On the other hand, local faith communities’ understanding of the complexities of their issues and women’s situatedness within the community ― often combined with an existing track record of care and welfare service volunteering ― has served as a strong foundation for provision of support and resilience. Even conservative religious groups such as Sōka Gakkai can be source of gender-sensitive responsive activities where women’s agency combines both the needs-based and the equality right-based views. Such findings highlight the need to develop official procedures encompassing more adaptive and inclusive models of disaster management to harness women’s capacities and faith-based resilience that exist within and across communities in Japan.

Gender and Post-disaster Community in Kobe Following the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake
Looking at post-disaster community with gender-lens is important. Gender issues were also identified in previous experiences in Japan, USA and other countries. In the Chicago heat wave in 1995, elderly men were more vulnerable than elderly women. Elderly survivors lacking family support needs to receive attention. That is, the vulnerability increased when the person did not have much social capital and those who did not have were more men than women in those cases. Community security increases when people has more social capital. Gender perspectives have been lacking in the public administration’s official reports at earlier earthquakes such as the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in Japan whereas it was always an issue in media coverage and in voices from the post-disaster community on the ground. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami indicated again a failure on the part of government to integrate a gender perspective into emergency planning and response, and ongoing gender inequality in Japanese society. An ageing population gives rise to a higher proportion of females. In Japan as well as in other countries, the number of older female populations surpasses by far the number of older male. Women’s role, often the case, may be in informal role, is critical in post-disaster community, both in emergency period and in community generation in longer-term post-disaster life reconstruction. Drawing upon qualitative data of Kobe following the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and data from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, this paper discusses gender at post-disaster community.

Women's Participation in Community Disaster Risk Reduction in Sichuan, China
In disaster-prone Asia, the importance of gender perspective into disasters study has been recognized since the 1990s. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, China began to implement community disaster risk reduction. The paper looks at women’s participation in community disaster risk reduction (DRR) by employing a qualitative approach in two typical communities in Sichuan. Community A is a resettlement community as a result of urban planning, and Community B is a recovery community built after 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Both Communities A and B have a volunteer team. But there are far more male members than female in Community A, whereas opposite in Community B. Firstly, this paper explains how the difference in the volunteer recruitment system have led to the gender difference. Previous studies suggest that elderly people are more vulnerable than other generations, and women are more vulnerable than men in coping with disaster. But this paper found that parenting women and the elderly, especially elderly women perform actively in community activities. Therefore, they are expected to strip off the brand of being vulnerable and to play an active role in community DRR, such as sharing information and leading a study program. Finally, this paper confirms the capability and potential of women in community DRR, but found that there is a lack of women’ participation during decision-making process and disaster prevention planning

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