Redressing the marginalisation of women with disabilities in disaster spaces

Authors: Emma Calgaro*, University of Sydney
Topics: Disabilities, Hazards and Vulnerability, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: hazards, disability, marginalisation, social justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Napoleon B3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Despite increased international commitment to disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction (DiDRR) people with disabilities remain unseen, unheard and unaccounted for in DRR processes and planning. This is most marked amongst women with disabilities (WWD) who experience specific gender, disability and poverty-based disadvantages that are often exacerbated in disaster spaces. Our research suggests that although WWD are disproportionally impacted by disasters, they are the least able to access institutional support across the preparedness, response and recovery phases of a disaster. The increased threat of violence following disasters leaves them vulnerable to additional harm. Although these issues are well recognised, there is little discussion of how the framing of WWD as ‘special’ and in need of protection in DRR discourses further embeds their marginalisation. ‘Special’ status institutionalises social perceptions of difference into government policies and programs, and together with the absence of disaggregated data, perpetuates WWD invisibility and widespread misunderstanding of their needs and appropriate responses to them. In the absence of formal sources of support during and after disasters, WWD have little choice but to rely upon the social capital of their households and neighbours for assistance. They ‘recover’ in whatever ways they can – through short-term loans, reduced food consumption and/or migration – each of which carries significant costs to their longer-term resilience. In this paper, we discuss the root causes of the marginalisation of WWD in the disaster context of and present steps that place women at the centre of DRR discourse for the benefit of all.

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