Integrating Gendered Perspectives in EM Practise

Any comprehensive understanding of disaster risk reduction (DRR) must address the lived experiences and perspectives of the populations who bear disproportionate challenges in disaster contexts. Here I’m speaking of Indigenous peoples, people of colour, people with disabilities, women and non-binary populations, including the LGBTQ2S community.

While there has been a growing amount of research that addresses the mainstreaming of gender into the recovery aspects of emergency mgmt practise, there exists a significant research gap in the integration of women and non-binary populations into response environments. 

First a couple parameters: when I speak of a gendered lens, I am talking about how a gender bias can sometimes lead to unequal treatment of individuals (increased risk) based on their gender which may deny them rights, opportunities and resources. It affects men and women negatively. This unequal treatment may further be complicated by a persons’ gender identity, or the personal sense of one’s gender, separate from sexual orientation. For many, this may correlate with the gender one is assigned at birth, or it may be different.

In order to integrate gendered perspectives into the response environment, I think we need to examine our conceptions of risk. As any emergency manager will tell you, current mitigation strategies have tended to be reactive, addressing infrastructure and other issues as they fail. In a proactive risk management model, a careful analysis of situations or and carefully analyzing a situation or assessing processes to determine the potential risks, identifying drivers of risks to understand the root cause, assessing probability and impact to prioritize risks and accordingly preparing a contingency plan.

The United Nations commissioned the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030 as a set of concrete actions to guide member states and mitigate risk. The Sendai Framework takes the concept of proactive risk management further, and integrates local knowledge to build localized communities of resilience. 

The Hyogo Framework was developed that promotes inclusivity and participator DRR processes: 

  • Leadership of local governments, including prioritizing the capacity of decision makers to understand and develop a holistic approach to DRR. 
  • Involvement of other local stakeholders, ensuring accountability from decision makers and acting as facilitators during negotiation and consensus-building processes. These stakeholders may include representatives from universities and local NGOs, as well as the private sector and the media.
  • Ensuring participatory mechanisms are in place to facilitate the involvement of local actors, particularly Indigenous peoples, people of colour, people with disabilities, women and non-binary populations, including the LGBTQ2S community. 

I’d like to focus on these participatory mechanisms from a gendered lens, and make some suggestions on how we can apply this lens to the command/control paradigm.

The scholarship is clear that inclusive and participatory processes in the development of DRR frameworks “can minimize risk, set the right priorities and shape recovery in ways that strengthen local livelihoods and well-being.” (UNDRR, 2017)

In a landmark study on vulnerability authored by M.B. Anderson, she explores the differential risk and questions that can be used to identify why a certain group may be more exposed to particular hazards. In order to address these exposures, I suggest that the voices of these groups be systematically integrated into the EOC environment.

By integrating the voices of women and non-binary individuals into leadership roles in a response environment, it has been found to have a demonstrable impact on the management of the response, and the restoration to viability of the community.

Note: a version of this blog post was delivered at the Canadian Risk and Hazard Network (CRHNet) Symposium on November 19, 2020.