Why and how should women and girls be targeted during disasters?


It is estimated that the earthquake in the center of Marash on February 6 affected a total of 23 million people in our country and Syria. For days, the country will mourn those left under the rubble, and we are fighting on an individual and community level to meet the needs of the rescued. Our request is that help reach those in need as soon as possible and that everyone in need can benefit from this help “equally.” At this stage, gender dynamics and the needs of disadvantaged groups need to be taken into account. Because natural disasters like earthquakes exacerbate existing inequalities.

Natural disasters affect everyone differently.

While natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and droughts are gender neutral, their impacts are not. Even if they live in the same household, men and women, boys and girls are affected differently by natural disasters. Just like we live now; in humanitarian crisesfor various reasons, mainly women and girls Disadvantaged and vulnerable groups may face different risks and difficulties in accessing care. A global survey shows that women’s mortality rates from natural disasters tend to be higher than men’s in countries of lower socioeconomic status. Same on this statistics This is also extremely surprising: in the event of a natural disaster, women and children die 14 times more often than men!

So why is disaster response not tailored to the specific needs of women and children?

What gender impacts can natural disasters have?

Let’s start with another example from the world. In the US, women and girls of color tend to have higher levels of poverty, greater difficulty accessing healthcare, less access to education and job opportunities (and lower wages when they find work).

Looking at this example, it becomes clearer that natural disasters can have different gender impacts. Natural disasters affect everyone differently, yes. For example, in many societies, women and girls; elderly family members often bear the primary responsibility for caring for the home and the people living in it, including children and the disabled. Care responsibilities may prevent them from evacuating during a potential disaster. Similarly, after a possible natural disaster, women are more likely to be responsible for caring for the sick and injured while they go about their daily work. If the main breadwinner died during a disaster, women had to find work, and girls were taken away from school to take care of the household.

In all countries, violence against women and girls, after the disaster is another factor to consider. Sexual assault, physical abuse, and human trafficking are known to increase after natural disasters. According to some reports, this is due to financial problems, increased mental health problems due to catastrophe injuries, increased use of psychoactive substances, etc. are situations. Overcrowded shelters or temporary shelters aggravate stress, which can lead to a variety of aggressive behaviors, including sexual aggression.

During the post-disaster recovery period, women and girls may have to work harder to carry out the day-to-day functions of their families. This may include queuing for supplies, having to travel farther to access water, or cooking in harsh environments. These activities also often take place during the daytime, limiting women’s and girls’ access to education or employment abroad.

Moreover, reports of sexual violence during and after natural disasters are often delayed. This is because victims focus on basic recovery from complaints and cannot access support services (medical clinics, rape counseling services, domestic violence shelters, etc.).

pregnancy and childbirth women after a possible disaster. makes him especially vulnerable. It is very important to have reproductive health services for mothers-to-be and breastfeeding mothers in evacuations and shelters after natural disasters.

Incorporating a gender dimension into care provided through risk analysis reduces all these risks and distributes care in an ‘inclusive’ way. It also helps ensure that assistance does not put women and girls at risk of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

What we can do?

As we explained above, involving women in the healing process helps to reduce stereotypes and discrimination regarding the role of women. So how do we do it? Here are some practical tips for those who are currently working in this field and asking themselves this question:

  • You can donate to institutions that work for disadvantaged groups, especially women and girls.
  • You can contact specialized platforms, groups, associations or formations that provide coordinated and organized assistance on the ground.
  • Do not share photos or videos of earthquake victims being pulled from the rubble. Be aware that by posting photos and names, you may expose these people to the risk of kidnapping or abuse.
  • The stress and shock caused by natural disasters are known to increase the incidence of domestic violence. So find out how you can help by contacting women’s organizations around you or the bar associations in your province. Do not ask anyone direct questions about the abuse and do not call for help from victims of abuse. This can do them more harm than help.
  • The reunification of unaccompanied children with their families should be a priority. To do this, hand over unaccompanied minors to the authorities without disclosing them.
  • Make sure that the lists of needs are prepared according to the needs and coverage of different groups. For example, in natural disasters, the need for menstrual care does not decrease; on the contrary, access to these materials becomes difficult. The same is true for regularly used birth control methods such as birth control pills.
  • Again, both men and women should provide psychological and psychosocial support to different groups.
  • Learn Psychological First Aid to help meet basic needs and reduce short-term psychological stress: Psychological First Aid: A way to help your loved ones affected by an earthquake
  • According to UNFPA, there are 214,325 pregnant women in the earthquake zone, 23,814 of them are due to give birth within a month. Direct food aid should take into account the situation of pregnant women and nursing mothers.
  • Mobile toilets and hygiene products, which are critical to preventing epidemics and providing essential care during menstruation, should be separated for men and women and installed urgently. In addition, the fact that all toilets can be locked from the inside is essential for the safety and comfort of women and girls.
  • Aid distribution points should not be located in the dark or in a secluded place, but should be located in places that are easily accessible and safe for everyone.
  • The number of female volunteers should be increased so that women and girls can easily express their special needs. Given the ethnic dynamics in the region, it is necessary to ensure that all groups have access to information in their own language.

For more information, please see the Gender Guide for Humanitarian Action.

You can also check out the Earthquake Brochure prepared by the Women’s Solidarity Foundation (KADAV) to draw attention to the dangers women face during natural disasters.

Sources: www.disasterphilanthropy.org, worldbank.org, undp.org.

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