Gender, disasters and risks

González Arias, María del Rosario (1); Méndez Rodríguez, Paz (1); Alcedo Rodríguez, Ángeles (1); Dema Moreno, Sandra (1); Díaz Fernández, Montserrat (1); Fernández Saavedra, Ana Gabriela (2); Fontanil Gómez, Yolanda (1); Llorente Marrón, Mar (1); Marrero Beramendi, Laura (2); Pérez Díaz, Cecilia (3) (2018). 'GENDER, DISASTERS AND RISKS' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The scientific literature shows that the existing development model causes disasters to become more frequent on the whole planet and increases the vulnerability of the population. Studies show that catastrophes have a greater impact on the poorest countries and that also in those with the highest levels of development the poorest populations are the most affected. The limited sex-disaggregated data reveal that the impact is not gender neutral; as a matter of fact, in the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in 2004, more than 75% of all deaths were women (Oxfam 2005). In the 2017 Mexican earthquake, the official data of the city government show again a huge gender imbalance; in the capital died almost twice as many women as men, in this case, due to the sexual division of labor, given that at the time in which it occurred, there were many more women than men inside the homes. For this reason, we must consider the social dimensions of disasters and, in particular, those linked to gender relations.

The main aim of this research project is to analyze the phenomenon of disasters from the gender perspective, in order to know their impact on men and women as well as the experiences of both sexes when faced with the disaster and its aftermath. We intend to detect whether there are gender differences and, if they exist, to know the causes that might be behind this phenomenon. Following this logic, we have chosen a type of disaster of natural and intensive origin, in order to identify if there are gender inequalities in the disaster and post-disaster, which has led us to focus on earthquakes, and specifically, those lived in Chile (Biobío) in 2010 and in Spain (Lorca) in 2011.Our hypothesis is that natural disasters, like non-natural catastrophes, have a greater impact on women, limit their chances of survival and increase the risk of suffering violence, due to the existing social inequalities, particularly when gender interrelates with other variables.

Addressing this question requires, from a methodological point of view, the use of quantitative and qualitative techniques. Therefore, on the one hand, secondary data sources at international level that provide sex-disaggregated information on the direct and indirect impact of disasters will be analyzed. And, on the other hand, discussion groups will be held in Spain and Chile with people who have experienced a disaster situation. With this technique we intend to know both men’s and women’s perception of risk and the way they face disasters and post-disasters.

This project places the development model at the center of the research, at a time of global transformations whose effects are not alien to us. Its ultimate purpose is to reduce vulnerabilities of the population and reduce the gender gap in catastrophic events of different kinds, such as those of a natural origin (earthquakes, floods, droughts, fires), but also those linked to humanitarian conflicts and/or consequence of forced migration, as is the case of refugees. Both of them affect us directly and its research in the Iberoamerican area turns this into a novel and relevant contribution, given that the scarce academic production in this field comes mainly from the Anglo-Saxon and Asian world.

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