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 3: Gender, development and disasters

Sarah Bradshaw


Having explored the notions of disasters and development, and related ideas such as poverty, vulnerability, and risk, attention now turns to how gender has been incorporated into development and disasters. In this chapter, the evolution of thinking around ‘engendering’ development is discussed. The disasters field has lagged behind somewhat in incorporating gender into its discourse and practice so the focus is on development. The discussion seeks to serve as a framework for understanding how gender might be incorporated into discussion of disasters, and the problems that engendering the disasters discourse might meet. However, first some basic gender concepts and theories need to be presented. There are some notions which are basic to gender studies. First, is the term ‘gender’ itself. While now in common usage, gender is a relatively new term and has only been widely used in relation to differences between men and women since the 1970s. Until then, discussion of differences between the two groups was based on sex, that is biological difference based on the sexual organs present at birth. Whilst this construction denies the existence of those people who are born with an indeterminate sex, with neither sexual organs or with both, such binary opposites pepper Western thinking and understanding. In general, the construction places one group, in this case the male, as central, and the opposite, in this case the woman, is ‘other’ to this, known through their difference from the dominant ‘norm’. Simone de Beauvoir’s famous 1940s text, The Second Sex, highlights this construction of women as ‘other’

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