Gender, Development and Disasters
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Gender, Development and Disasters

Sarah Bradshaw

Sarah Bradshaw critically examines key notions, such as gender, vulnerability, risk, and humanitarianism, underpinning development and disaster discourse. Case studies are used to demonstrate how disasters are experienced individually and collectively as gendered events. Through consideration of processes to engender development, it problematizes women’s inclusion in disaster response and reconstruction. The study highlights that while women are now central to both disaster response and development, tackling gender inequality is not. By critically reflecting on gendered disaster response and the gendered impact of disasters on processes of development, it exposes some important lessons for future policy.
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Chapter 2: What is development?

Sarah Bradshaw


Development, like disaster, is a contested notion with a long history of discussion and debate around its meaning. Many textbooks explain what development ‘is’ and many pages have been filled in exploring how best it can be achieved (see for example Allen and Thomas 2000; Chant and McIlwaine 2009; Crush 1995; Timmons-Roberts and Hite 2000; Desai and Potter 2008; Potter et al. 2008; Willis 2005). In general, it captures ideas of progress and advancement: inherent in the idea is the notion of change. This change is generally assumed to be all encompassing, to occur at both the social and individual levels, and to be a continuous and cumulative process. However it is not always positive or ‘good’ change (see Thomas 2000). While much discussion has focused on how to achieve development, economic growth has been presented as key. Events in the 1990s, however, called into question whether economic growth alone is sufficient to bring about development and saw a new focus in the development discourse on factors that influence growth, including gen- der. In recent years, the notions of poverty and inequality have also become more central to the debates around development and while growth remains key, social protection for the poor is now also recognised as important. The evolving development discourse overlaps with that of the disaster discourse, including a common language focused on poverty and vulnerability, on risk and protection. However, the way in which these concepts are understood does not necessarily coincide, and disas- ters have certainly not been a central concern of development.

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