By Alison Sneddon and Susan Njambi-Szlapka for Anticipation Hub
People living in the same area affected by a disaster will experience it differently depending on their individual vulnerabilities and capacities. These vulnerabilities, and especially intersecting vulnerabilities, are often invisible in data, and therefore in policy and practice. When policy and practice don’t account for this diversity and complexity, the impacts of disasters exacerbate existing inequalities as already vulnerable people are left further and further behind.
Practical Action Consulting worked with the Start Network last year to conduct a study examining gender inclusion in disaster risk financing and the anticipatory action it facilitates. The study aimed to answer two key questions:
- Which points in disaster risk financing system development and implementation are likely to have the most significant gendered aspects?
- And how can the Start Network’s disaster risk financing ‘building blocks’ be enhanced to fully mainstream gender?
We used our Missing Voices approach to ensure we hear from those who are most marginalised in mainstream datasets. We focused on three key areas: risk analytics, contingency planning, and financing.
Risk Analytics: Understanding how gender and intersecting vulnerabilities shape risk profiles
Looking firstly at risk profiles, we found that existing inequalities directly affect the risk profiles of individuals and the impacts they experience. People who are vulnerable and marginalised, such as women and minority gender groups, and especially those with intersecting vulnerabilities, are often affected earlier and more severely by a disaster than other people in a community who are not marginalised.
Secondly, vulnerable groups have different needs from disaster risk financing programming. They may need more time, resources, and support to take effective early action that reduces the impacts of hazards.
Developing a system which includes multiple triggers and thresholds can support the effective inclusion of women and other marginalised gender groups and vulnerable populations. This could involve identifying other indicators of risk relevant to these groups which may be apparent before an agreed forecast threshold, and identifying low and no-cost actions or releasing funds for specific, targeted actions commensurate with the lower levels of certainty.
Finally, we need qualitative approaches to data collection to provide insight into the complex nature of risk, and to appropriately target early action. In analysing differential risk, quantitative data has a lot of serious limitations. It is rarely disaggregated, and even disaggregated data typically excludes marginalised individuals and intersecting vulnerabilities.
It’s really important for qualitative data to be collected and used alongside qualitative data so that we can understand the different ways in which risk is perceived and experienced.
Contingency Planning: Gender appropriate communication and implementation plans are key
Access to information on disaster risk is heavily constrained by gender inequalities: gaps in education, literacy, and access to information services affect how women and marginalised gender groups can access information about forecasts, warnings, and preparedness and relief services. There can also be differences in access to public space, and gendered differences in labour schedules and communication preferences.
Secondly, we found that the needs relating to disaster risk preparedness and response are gendered. Different groups may struggle with mobility and therefore access to or use of evacuation routes, or they may have additional care needs such as ante or post-natal care along with different safety concerns such as gender-based violence. Timely and gender appropriate communication and dissemination of risk knowledge is critical for the response capability of vulnerable groups. As well as dissemination methods, contingency planning needs to consider the different information needs that people with specific vulnerabilities have. We spoke to an adolescent girl in Bangladesh who told us how important for her it was to information about the measures in place to keep her safe and how she could access relief.
Contingency plans should include early and anticipatory actions to address different gendered needs in preparing for and responding to disaster events. These needs will vary depending on the hazard type as well as the social and cultural context, but may include evaluating the accessibility and safety of evacuation routes and temporary shelters, provision of ante- and post-natal care; systems to prevent and respond to gender-based violence; access to medicines; size and contents of relief packages. Contingency plans should also assess how far disaster risk financing for livelihood support works for people of different genders and ensure different activities and sources of income are included where there are gendered patterns of income generation.
To do that we need to involve women and marginalised gender groups and their representative organisations in contingency plan design and evaluation. Women and marginalised gender groups contribute to preparedness and resilience with different knowledge, skills, experience, and coping strategies. Community and intermediary organisation participation in contingency planning can help to identify specific actions relevant to different marginalised and vulnerable groups, at different timescales, strengthening the system with this existing knowledge and improving the effectiveness of disaster risk financing and anticipatory actions.
Financing: Preposition resources based on full understanding of different needs
We need resources to identify who has different needs and what they are. This includes focusing on locally-led anticipatory action, engaging with organisations and networks based in affected communities with the experience and expertise to understand these needs and how to address them. The process of engaging consultatively and collaboratively with women and marginalised gender groups to understand these needs will require appropriate time and financial support as well as investment in organisational capacity, whether that is training for staff, recruitment of gender expertise, or engagement with intermediary groups.
Secondly, disaster risk financing systems can critically assess existing social protection systems and services. This can help us to identify any gaps both in the people who are eligible, and the costs they are able to cover, so that anticipatory financing can effectively support and complement these systems.
And finally, it’s vital to incorporate participatory and inclusive feedback loops into disaster risk financing to ensure that financing provisions, mechanisms and processes are effectively meeting different needs. These feedback loops can be administered through representative intermediary organisations to actively include input from marginalised and vulnerable groups in ways which are appropriate and accessible.