Disasters cause devastating disruptions to the livelihoods of communities. They can cause great damage and loss of life leading to serious socio-economic implications. Recovery is usually not easy thus building resilience is key. Different forms of disasters including tsunamis, flooding and droughts have ravaged different regions across the globe as a result of changing climatic conditions. Gender inequality has been a major stumbling block in preparing communities for disasters and building resilience. Empowering women will go a long way in ensuring that communities are well prepared and adequately equipped to adapt and to effectively manage future disasters.
Women have multiple roles in the society including the role of caregivers, health guardians, and economic actors. Their participation in matters affecting communities is vital. However, in most communities, especially in rural areas, women tend to hold less negotiating power. They have minimal access to decision-making process rendering them more vulnerable to the impact of disasters. After disasters, rural women are left to fend for their families as their husbands and sons move to urban areas in search of jobs. Women are disproportionately affected by everyday stresses yet they have no seat on the table when it comes to decision making. Marginalization of women and girls and cutting them off from the decision-making process, education and financial resources only sinks communities further into susceptibility making them more vulnerable to the shocks associated with disasters.
Women are disadvantaged due to lack of information. In rural areas, women are mostly left in the dark. Lack of information makes women less confident in voicing their needs. Failure to empower women implies that societies are missing an opportunity to bolster long-term growth and prosperity through their role as economic actors. Women’s participation in collective action processes and working hand in hand with relevant stakeholders improves a community’s resilience, reduces the impact of disasters and eases recovery process.Leveraging the capacity of women and adopting a gender-integrated approach that empowers both women and girls will be critical to achieving long-term desired change.
Empowering women through giving them access to information, access to quality education and access to financial resources will weaken pre-existing barriers and inequalities for women enabling them to participate in decision making and addressing issues affecting them, consequently becoming agents of positive change. Countries that under-invest in women are missing massive opportunities for building resilience and supporting long-term prosperity.