Women As Agency during Disasters

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:30
Oral Presentation
Chetna VERMA, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
Ayushi JAIN, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
Women have always been seen through the lens of vulnerability since gender-centred research slowly made its way into the field of disaster management. However, a little progress has been made in the direction of understanding the role that women can play during disaster situations. This paper while acknowledging the fact that women indeed are at risk during disasters, tries to put focus on their role as first respondents to a disaster situation. The qualitative research was undertaken in the villages in Uttarakhand, India that were affected by the flash floods in 2013. Defying the social construct that never allowed their strength to be taken into account while discussing disasters, a group of 80 women gathered together and saved a school from the wrath of flood waters and demonstrated their capacity as an agency. Besides, they showcased tremendous capacity to come together as an agency and bounce back to a normal life post-disaster. The paper concludes that how there may be several examples where women as agency would have taken control of the situation during disasters but their efforts were ignored equally by the society and the media in order to sustain the pitiful, sympathetic image of women as the ‘most vulnerable’.