Natural Disasters and Development: In a Globalizing World

By Mark Pelling | Go to book overview
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Gender, disaster and development

The necessity for integration

Maureen Fordham

Introduction

Gender, disaster and development have traditionally been treated as separate categories within academic disciplines and in terms of professional practice. Workers and researchers only rarely transfer knowledge between them and yet each group could contribute much to the others. However, it is increasingly being recognized that these elements must be brought together to improve understanding and practical action. When disasters occur, they bring with them a convergence of external help focused on providing immediate relief and quickly returning the community to 'normality'. In doing so, they can overturn long-term development programmes; the 'tyranny of the urgent' (BRIDGE 1996) can drive out gender and other fundamental social issues, or relegate them to a lower priority. Similarly, many development programmes are planned and undertaken without ensuring they do not exacerbate hazardous conditions or make people (and particularly women) more vulnerable to disasters.

The following discussion argues for the necessity of integrating gender, disaster and development in order to move from vulnerability to greater resilience in disaster-struck and disaster-prone areas. The building of sustainable, disaster-resistant communities, in both the developed 'North' and the developing 'South', requires increased employment of interdisciplinary knowledge and initiatives - although, for practical reasons, the weighting of the elements is rarely likely to be equal. Arguably, such a melding is more acceptable to those working in the development arena, where it is not so much a radically new suggestion (although somewhat elusive in practice), than in hazard and disaster management in developed countries, where it may be regarded as unnecessary or institutionally problematic. However, there is a need in the North for socially inclusive, participatory disaster management which can benefit from lessons learned in the South. This requires a reversal in the dominant direction of information flow: from South to North, not North to South.

Notwithstanding the call for integration, the difficulties of such a broad approach are fully acknowledged and the requirement to foreground one or

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