A gender and protection advisor with the UN Women’s office in Fiji, Philippa Ross writes in The Guardian about why gathering and using gender data is essential to effective humanitarian responses to natural disasters. She points out the different skill sets and knowledge often held by men and women and says that by ignoring one gender’s set of skills, a country’s recovery from a disaster is necessarily hindered and slowed.
She uses women’s traditional knowledge of crops, food and diet as an example. If women aren’t consulted as part of the rationing of foodstuffs, vital information won’t be shared and transmitted to those who need to know, resulting in potential wastes of resources and time.
Additionally, Ross points out that when food is scarce, women are often expected to serve men and boys first, resulting in “particular post-disaster nutritional risks for women.”
Violence against women and girls is another particular vulnerability that is exacerbated in situations of humanitarian crisis, especially as the displacement and stress of a disaster tends to “intensify pre-existing risk factors for domestic abuse.”