Women advocates raise concerns in Yolanda-hit areas

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


GENDER inequality and discrimination, prevalent even before Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made landfall, are some of the underlying causes why people are still suffering even nine months after the typhoon made landfall.

This was highlighted during the international aid group Oxfam’s recent forum dubbed “Women After the Storm,” attended by around 100 women advocates, including grassroots leaders from typhoon-affected communities.

“The struggles of those from typhoon hit areas -- from poverty, poor governance and delivery of basic social services, to gender discrimination -- have always been there before, and were even magnified after the typhoon,” said Jing Pura, gender justice programme coordinator of Oxfam.

Women advocates raise concerns in Yolanda-hit areas
(Contributed photo)

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Yolanda was the strongest typhoon ever recorded at landfall. It killed more than 6,000 people and displaced 4.1 million people. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 3.7 million of the affected population are women and girls. With women disproportionately affected by the typhoon, they are considered among the most vulnerable sectors in Yolanda-affected communities.

“From the onset of the typhoon to the recovery phase, pre-existing inequalities and discrimination have made it more difficult for women to cope with the disaster that has hit their lives,” said gender justice programme coordinator of Oxfam Jing Pura during the forum.

“For instance, now that livelihoods remain unstable in Yolanda-affected areas and husbands are getting less pay, women scour for different means to get money and at the same time attend to her role in taking care of her family,” she said.

Pura added that these findings were based on Oxfam’s field work in Eastern Samar (Guiuan, Mercedes, and Salcedo), Leyte (Ormoc, Julita, Tanauan, Palo), and Northern Cebu (Daanbantayan, Madrideios, Bantayan, and Sta. Fe).

The challenges and risks were likewise higher for new mothers and would-be mothers during and in the aftermath of the storm. In Yolanda-affected areas, an estimated 230,000 are pregnant, while 147,899 are lactating women, according to UNFPA.

Hence, responding to the particular needs of these women had to be prioritized, in terms of ensuring provision of birthing facilities and the designation of women-friendly spaces in evacuation centers, Pura said.

She added that meaningful participation of women in critical post-disaster rehabilitation planning, and their access to information regarding these plans, are likewise important. Otherwise, lack of livelihoods where women can participate, as well as access to basic social services in proposed permanent resettlement sites, might compromise women’s particular needs and wellbeing.

She said women’s rights and protection needs of Yolanda-affected communities remain to be at the center of Oxfam’s aid, and is crucial especially in the transition from emergency to long term rehabilitation and development.

“This is the reason why Oxfam organized this forum. We want to share recommended actions with agencies and organizations working on the ground to help make recovery and rehabilitation efforts gender-responsive and transformative,” said Pura. “We need to understand how women, with their families and communities, are coping and managing so that we are able to collectively re-imagine the best and most lasting ways to build back better.”

“Women After the Storm” was attended by grassroots leaders of women’s groups from Yolanda-affected areas and representatives from various national and international agencies like United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Women, Save the Children, Plan International, World Vision, UP Center for Women's Studies, and Women's Legal and Human Rights Bureau Inc. (WLB), among others.

The topics discussed during the forum include rebuilding of women’s livelihoods, promoting women leadership in times of emergencies, responding to gender-based violence and reproductive health needs of omen, mainstreaming gender in relocation and rehabilitation planning, and recognizing LGBT rights during and in the aftermath of the typhoon.

With various issues raised during the forum, Pura emphasized the importance of having a “gender lens” in rebuilding communities.

“The risks women, men, girls, and boys who are affected by Yolanda are different, and this determines who survives or who will get back on their feet,” she said. “Thus, gender responsive provisions should be instilled in rehabilitation and recovery programs to address overlapping issues like land, shelter, and livelihood.” (PR)

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