Yogyakarta, Indonesia* - *“In disaster management, the victims are often wrongfully considered a single entity and at times are treated the same with regard to the type of aid they need.”
This has been an important yet often ignored point in many disasters and calamities. Reflecting on the new awareness among Indonesians following the Asian tsunami in 2004, Ade Tanesia of the Combine Resource Institution added: “In reality, the impacts of disaster on women and men are different. Gender analysis therefore is important in aid distribution because victims are mostly women, elderly people, and children.”
In 2005, Oxfam and the United Nations Population Fund estimated that female deaths were 30 to 40 percent higher than those of males.
The reproductive roles of women indeed had an impact on their survival or death. Tanesia explained that as mothers, women tend to prioritise the survival and needs of children. Some women likewise have greater need for healthy food, especially for pregnant and lactating women.
Tanesia also noted that the apparent indiscriminate delivery of relief. Some formula milk were expired. Clothes that were usually donated were inappropriate, given the conservative culture of survivors. Napkins are also a novelty in relief work. “Women are forced to use any kind of cloths which are often not clean. Women's underwear are also often missing,” she said.
Women likewise remained vulnerable even after they managed to evacuate their homes and villages. Sexual abuses happen as evacuation centres lack separate areas, including toilets for women and men. “The refugee camps often are not adequate to the specific needs of women that came with culture. Women have no privacy to change clothes or breastfeed because there are no seperation screens. Women do not feel comfortable in open spaces which they have to share with men because sexual harassment often happens. It is almost impossible for Acehnese women who need to cover the whole body to take a bath in front of a long queue waiting to use the washing facilities.”
A few years since the deadly 2004 tsunami, widows organized themselves and formed a group now called Pekka. The members of Pekka led the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation, setting up shelters and kitchens. Pekka has overseen the distribution of relief goods while ensuring that these goods indeed account for women’s needs.
The Solidaritas Perempuan Kinasih (Kinasih Women Solidarity) is a women-driven initiative out of the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake. This savings and credit organization has helped women to set up businesses such as sewing, lobster farming, cassava-chips making and other home-based industries.
Ade Tanesia was among the participants of the training on Community Radio and Disaster Management organized by the World Association of Community Broadcasters - Asia Pacific last 19-20 October 2008 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.