Disaster & Women Taiwan 11022009


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A think piece about gender dimension,or the lack of, in disaster relief & reconstruction. Presented in roundtable of ISTR-AP 2009.

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  • How widespread is violence against women? Worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Several global surveys suggest that half of all women who die from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women experience sexual harassment throughout their lifetime. Between 40% and 50% of women in the European Union were sexually harassed in the workplace. In Malawi, 50% of schoolgirls surveyed reported sexual harassment at school. Young women are particularly vulnerable to coerced sex and more than 60% of HIV positive youth are females between the ages of 15 and 24. Violence against women in police custody and military-controlled scenarios is very common and conducted in exchange for privileges or basic necessities. Violence against women is not confined to a specific culture, region or country, or to particular groups of women within a society.
  • Many people around the world, including aid workers, who believe that disasters, such as the earthquakes and tsunamis, affect everyone equally. There is no need to focus on vulnerable groups, such as women, children, elderly, marginalised groups such as aboriginal in Taiwan, Dalits in India, migrants, religious and ethnic minorities and others. In 2005 Tsunami, it was a Sunday morning, when the waves came striking, most women were in their homes attending to household chores. In many communities, they hesitated for that fatal moment, seeking their children, the sick and the elderly for whom they were responsible. Most children who survived because they had been at Sunday school – of whatever religion – or because they had gone out to play. Many reports show that the most fatal impacts were from the second and third waves. However, the first wave was strong enough to rip the clothes off persons in water. Women who were left naked refused to stand up and run, like men did. They were bound by socialisation regarding shame and the exposure of their bodies in public. The wet cloth of sarees and long dresses made running very difficult, their long hair got entangled in trees and debris and dragged them under the water. Because of cultural and social restrictions, women had not learned to swimming or climbing trees. Those skills may have saved their lives.
  • Women who are often responsible for children, the elders and the sick in the family but men are viewed as the heads of households in relief delivery. In the transitional housing settlements, domestic disputes including violence were reported. These were primarily caused by tensions within families because male family members tended to monopolise the use of the money received as compensation and grants on immediately consumable items such as liquor as well as on gambling. In addition, women complained that men would often sell the rations for money, disregarding the food needs of the household as a whole. Domestic conflict has arisen because women are not directly given monetary relief handouts which could then help better management of household expenditures on food and other family needs. This is because men tend to receive relief and rehabilitation grants as head of the household, which is based on a preconceived assumption that it is men who provide for the family. In 1995 Kobe earthquake, Japanese government financial support was provided to victims of the earthquake but rather than providing it to individuals it was done on household basis. If the head of the household (usually a man) was not affected by the earthquake, no other family member was eligible for the support. The concern was taken to the court and the provision was revised to individual basis. In Japan, there was increased sexual harassment of women, including reports of 37 cases of rape in and around the shelter camps. Concerns on sexual abuse were raised at a meeting held by local women after the disaster. Conservative media reacted with an article claiming that the stories of rape were made up by demagogue feminists to keep up their movements. In the relief camps of 2005 Pakistani earthquake, it’s been found that even the way food was distributed actually discriminated women’s access to foods. It was centrally distributed and people had to come out of tents. To begin with, the patriarchal Pakistani tradition forbids women of exposing themselves in public. Furthermore, any women dared to venture out would find herself become the center of thousands of men catcalling her. According to the Human Rights Watch’s evaluation on Pakistani earthquake relief camp: Although rape is rarely reported, infamous Hudood Ordinance charges raped women of having committed adultery unless she can produce four witnesses who have seen the rape. This ordinance has been under fire since the 1980s, but the strong right-wing religious clerics have held control over all governments and no government has been able to make even very weak amendments to the ordinance. Violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, rape, ‘honour killings’, acid attacks and trafficking are rampant. Survivors of violence encounter unresponsiveness and hostility at each level of the criminal justice system, from police who fails to register cases or investigate cases of gender-biased violence to judges with little training or commitment to women’s equal rights.”
  • Most relief organizations consult only men in making important decisions concerning the reconstruction & economic development. Women are excluded from the decision making process. There is a temptation for relief agencies to take advantage of the patriarchal environment in pursuit of project targets. Consulting with men is considered a fast and effective way of decision-making because of the assumption that men are the heads of families who can represent the needs and aspirations of the entire family. However from the previous slide, we’ve already found the devastating outcome that assumption could bring to women & children. Involvement in decision-making processes is not an easy thing to do for women in many societies and cultures where traditional gender bias has already prohibited women’s public participation. Apart from a very strong patriarchal culture, the much decreased numbers of women are frequently taken as a reason for many men not to involve women in the process. It’s found in Sri Lanka, India and Aceh, post-tsunami community meetings had never involved women. Even if there were women at the meetings, generally they were not asked for opinion or they were reluctant to speak in the public. The non-involvement of women resulted in decisions that disadvantaged them. For example, men decided to build a water tank at the foot of the hill, with consideration of facilitating the transfer of water from the tanker to the tank. This made life difficult for women as every day they had to go up and down the hill to get water for cooking, washing and family bathing. Meetings requesting assistance and specifying needs took place at night, thus disabling women from participating because, according to Islamic Law, women should not go outside at night with a man who is not her husband, or her relative. As a result, the incoming assistance did not meet the needs of women and children. The root causes of violations of women’s human rights : Biased patriarchal and gender blind views of many individuals working for the Aceh-Nias rehabilitation and reconstruction programme, Women’s powerless in decision-making has been prevalent in normal circumstances and became even worse in the post-disaster scenario. One can take a look at the recent post-typhoon reconstruction process here in Taiwan. Only 2 out of 41 members of the central committee Central reconstruction committee are women, and they are actually elected county mayors, rather than survivor representatives.
  • Ensure Women’s Equal Ownership Rights to Land, House and Property Ensure Women’s Equal Access to Livelihood Opportunities Raising Women’s Awareness of their Human Rights
  • Disaster & Women Taiwan 11022009

    1. 1. Disasters: Opportunities to Change or Perpetuate Gender Discrimination? Presented in the 6th ISTR Asia and Pacific Regional Conference November 3 2009 Presented by Regina Yuching Lin Garden of Hope Foundation in Taiwan
    2. 2. <ul><li>Established in 1988 </li></ul><ul><li>Leading women’s organization in addressing sexual violence, gender-based violence and discrimination against women </li></ul><ul><li>We believe that natural and man-made disasters exasperate women’s vulnerabilities and human rights violation. </li></ul><ul><li>Rights-based approach </li></ul>GOH Overview
    3. 3. <ul><li>1 out of 3 women is beaten, coerced into sex, abused or even killed by an intimate partner in her lifetime.* </li></ul><ul><li>The roots of violence against women lie in historically unequal power relations between men and women, and persistent discrimination against women. </li></ul>Facts of Violence * From UNIFEM.
    4. 4. <ul><li>Are disaster relief and reconstruction immune from this worldwide epidemic of violence & discrimination against women? </li></ul><ul><li>Are ‘gender-neutral’ aids really possible? </li></ul><ul><li>Why do we think our aid work is ‘gender neutral’? </li></ul>Big Questions
    5. 5. Disaster & Women Myth: women are not particularly vulnerable than any other groups <ul><li>Truth: </li></ul><ul><li>In 2005 tsunami almost 80% of the dead were women. A survey found that 64% of children who died were female while 91% of the adults who died were women.* </li></ul><ul><li>In 1995 Kobe earthquake, women’s death was by 1,000 higher than men’s .* </li></ul>* ** From APWLD. Are women not vulnerable or are we blind to recognize the vulnerability?
    6. 6. Disaster & Women Myth: gender does not matter in terms of disaster relief delivery and the rebuilding process <ul><li>Truth: </li></ul><ul><li>No consideration for women’s sanitary and privacy needs, women in menstruation, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, or women in need of reproductive health medicine </li></ul><ul><li>Disregard to gender stereotypes violate women’s basic rights, such as food & security. </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual harassment, sexual violence & domestic violence found in almost every relief camp. </li></ul>Are women not vulnerable or are we blind to recognize the vulnerability?
    7. 7. Disaster & Women Myth: unlike ethnicity or local politics, gender is often not a valid factor in the decision-making process. <ul><li>Truth: </li></ul><ul><li>Assumption that men are the heads of families who can represent the needs and aspirations of the entire family. </li></ul><ul><li>Women have no say in even small decisions that relate to her basic daily needs. </li></ul><ul><li>Women are suffered in powerlessness before and after disasters. </li></ul>Are women not vulnerable or are we blind to recognize the vulnerability?
    8. 8. Gender Sensitive Check List to Your Aid Delivery <ul><li>Ensure Women’s Access to Information on Relief and Rehabilitation Measures </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Women’s Access to Sufficient and Adequate Food </li></ul><ul><li>Food distribution should be equitable, transparent and respect human dignity </li></ul><ul><li>Aid distribution for women should be handled by women </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that Women’s Menstrual Needs Are Met </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Women’s Access to Adequate Toilet and Bathing Facilities </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Women’s Access to Free Health Care Services </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Security and Safety of Women and Children </li></ul><ul><li>Protect Women from Violence and Abuse </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Women’s Access to Psycho-Social Counselling </li></ul>From APWLD
    9. 9. Gender Sensitive Check List to Your Aid Delivery <ul><li>Eliminate Head of Household Concept </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Women’s Participation in Management of Camps </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Women’s Equal Access to Compensation Payments and Rehabilitation Measures </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Children’s Access to Education (Especially Girls’) </li></ul><ul><li>Protect Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups </li></ul><ul><li>Protect Migrant Workers </li></ul><ul><li>Reach out to Widows and Women-headed Households, Disabled and Elderly </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Women’s Participation in Decision Making Processes </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that Reconstruction of Houses Meets Women’s and Family Needs </li></ul>
    10. 10. Gender Sensitive Check List to Your Aid Delivery <ul><li>Ensure Women’s Equal Ownership Rights to Land, House and Property </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure Women’s Equal Access to Livelihood Opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Raising Women’s Awareness of their Human Rights </li></ul>
    11. 11. <ul><li>Your experiences, comments and questions are very important! </li></ul>The Garden of Hope Foundation Taiwan's CEDAW Report Working Group Regina Yuching Lin Email: goh615@goh.org.tw