Meaningful Participation for Women in Disaster Management 

Discussions regarding gender inequality cannot be separated from the issue of vulnerability. Therefore, encouraging the role of women also means opening up space for other vulnerable groups in disaster management. Gender mainstreaming also means encouraging recognition of the rights of vulnerable groups in disaster management. However, recognising their rights does not mean that vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, are placed as passive groups waiting for assistance when a disaster occurs.

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International Women’s Day, which is commemorated on March 8 every year, reminds us that gender mainstreaming in disaster management is very important. Meaningful involvement of women in every stage of disaster risk reduction is needed to ensure that the efforts being made meet the needs of women and other vulnerable groups. 

Discussions on the gender inequality issue cannot be separated from the vulnerability issue. Therefore, promoting the role of women also means opening space for other vulnerable groups in disaster management. 

The Head of the Program and Budget Development II of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), Gita Yuliandi Suwandi, explained that in disaster management efforts, women play many roles, ranging from responding to disasters, organising communities, providing care services to leading disaster management efforts at various levels in society. “The commemoration of International Women’s Day 2024 is an important moment to celebrate women’s achievements in responding to disasters and becoming resilient, as well as a reminder to continue to empower women in disaster management,” she said. 

So far, at the personal level, there has been much evidence of women’s strength and leadership amid crises. Such experience is an important foundation in promoting gender equality and meaningful participation of women at every stage of disaster management, from preparedness and emergency response to rehabilitation and construction. “By ensuring women’s voices in policymaking related to disaster management and risk reduction, we can create inclusive and targeted strategies to address gender-based challenges in disaster situations,” she added. 

According to her, there are various systemic obstacles and challenges faced by women amid disaster situations, ranging from unequal access to resources and the high risk of gender-based violence to limited leadership and representation opportunities. For this reason, International Women’s Day 2024 is also a reminder to continue to overcome these various obstacles and challenges to promote the resilience of women and communities. 

The Director of East Java Development Community Assessment Institute (LPKP), Sutiah, highlighted the implementation aspect of the regulation related to women’s participation in disaster management. Currently, the regulation is there; however, its implementation needs to be monitored. 

Looking at existing conditions, efforts to promote meaningful participation of women in disaster management need to be balanced with increasing the capacity of policy implementers to be gender-sensitive. Sutiah hopes that the local government, in this case the East Java Provincial Government, can pay attention to the capacity aspect. “It is important to provide capacity to human resources in addition to regulations because implementers must have the right perspective on the issue of GEDSI (Gender and Social Inclusion),” she said. 

According to Ni Luh Made Vissca Anggraini, the Junior Expert Planner of Bali Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), access to information and education is the key to promoting the empowerment of women and vulnerable groups as active actors in disaster management. Therefore, collective action is needed to open access to information and education for women. “The ultimate goal is the direct involvement of all parties collectively to promote gender mainstreaming,” she said. 

Rights of People with Disabilities 

Gender mainstreaming also means promoting recognition of the rights of vulnerable groups in disaster management. However, recognising rights does not mean placing vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, as passive groups waiting for help when a disaster occurs. 

The Head of the Disability Service Unit, East Nusa Tenggara Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), Desderdea Kanni, explained that women with disabilities have a double risk of vulnerability in disaster aspects. That is why the involvement and understanding of cross-sector actors in the decision-making process and implementation of disaster management programs are important. She observes that so far, women with disabilities still tend to serve as mere beneficiary objects. “The involvement of cross-sector actors, especially women with disabilities, is important because disasters can have an impact on anyone. Not only for those who are already PwD (women with disabilities), considering that disasters can also turn someone into a person with disability,” she said. 

Similarly, the Chairperson of the Beriuk Maju Business Group, West Nusa Tenggara, Suratun Mahriani, said that her condition as a person with disabilities does not prevent her from continuing to speak up and opening decent livelihood opportunities for herself and other people with disabilities. 

“Women with disabilities have the same opportunity to improve the economic resilience of the community. The meaning of International Women’s Day 2024 for me is that I am a woman with disabilities who has dreams and aspirations, just like other women,” she said. 

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