EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — March 10, 2010

Understanding the Gender Dimensions of Emergency Management
Resources and Strategies for Change

Elaine Enarson, Ph.D.
Gender and Disaster Researcher

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following has been prepared from a transcription of the recording. The complete slide set (Adobe PDF) may be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/gender/enarson.pdf for ease of printing.

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Welcome to EMforum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as Moderator today. We are very glad you could join us.

Our topic today is "Understanding the Gender Dimensions of Emergency Management: Resources and Strategies for Change." Please note that our guest has provided a number of concise, related resources that you can access from today’s Background Page.

We first visited this topic during 1998, and the transcript from that previous program is available from our archives. We did feel it was time for an update, and hope to learn what has been happening since then.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s guest:

[Slide 1]

Dr. Elaine Enarson is a researcher, author, educator, and founding member of the international "Gender in Disaster Network." She calls herself an "accidental disaster sociologist," whose personal experience in Hurricane Andrew sparked extensive work on gender, vulnerability and community resilience.

Elaine was lead course developer of a FEMA course on social vulnerability, and has convened numerous workshops on gender and disaster risk reduction. She is currently co-editing a book on Women of Katrina: The Gender Dimensions of Disaster Recovery, teaching Community Based Research for the Women’s College at the University of Denver, and writing a book on women and disaster in the US.

Welcome back Elaine, and thank you very much for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Elaine Enarson: Thank you sincerely to all my friends at EM Forum and to all of you who have taken the time to spend your noon hour, or wherever you are, with us to have this discussion. It has been a long time coming and I just want to thank you for being here.

My concern, and this is a concern that we all share in disaster sociology, is that so much has been learned about social vulnerability to disaster and social resilience to the effects of hazards and disasters, including sex and gender and yet repeatedly, we find that knowledge is not used in a way that is useful for emergency managers, and therefore, not in a way that is useful for community members to be able to prepare and respond and cope and recover from disasters.

That’s the challenge. Dennis Milletti use to always say that we need that kind of translator person, and I try to think about that as a disaster researcher—how to use this knowledge in productive and useful ways. Seriously, I’m hoping that in our question and answer period, you’ll help me out here and take a look, either now or later, at some of the resources that are available, and we can talk a little bit more about how you think we can move forward with integrating this kind of information.

[Slide 2]

With that, I will proceed through about 20 slides pretty rapidly. I’d like to start with some basic assumptions. I’m one of a number of disaster sociologists who have been working in this area, both internationally and in the United States, and it has led, of course, to some basic articles of faith, and here they are before you.

Disasters do occur, not to disembodied or de-gendered people, but to women and to men, to girls and to boys, but not in identical ways. We are much more complex than simply one or the other. Disasters, because they are social events, unfold in highly gendered conditions. It’s really quite amazing sometimes to think about how little credence we give this. Just as our country and our daily lives are formed by race relations, by age relations, by the physical and cultural environment we move in, so too are they formed by gender relations.

Yes, women, we find in the research, that women and girls (but not uniformly) are often at increased risk. What we’re learning more is about the capacities and the resources that women and men bring through their gender identity and gender roles to resilience-building. We want to focus on capacities, as well.

Finally another key assumption that we have to make (and if you doubt this at all, and I don’t think you do because this is your field, take a look at some of the disaster movies) is this is a very extraordinary gendered (male) profession, so there is an issue there as well. Those are some of the starting points I’d like to begin with.

[Slide 3]

I love this old photo. The point is not to replace one set of ideas with another in a stereotypic way. The point is not to talk about the gender-lens as a form of identity politics (as a recent conversation with an emergency manager suggested). It’s not about discrimination. It’s not about an advocacy or political agenda anymore than it is a political or advocacy agenda to talk about the rights of persons who live with disabilities and who have particular issues and concerns and capacities in disasters.

It is not something that is a fad. In the United States, we have not yet taken it onboard to the same degree as we have internationally. I think that is something we need to look at. Gender awareness is really increasing at a quite rapid rate internationally. I think we need to join in.

[Slide 4]

What does the gender lens offer? I just addressed some of things I think it’s not. Here are some of the things I think it is. It’s really a smart way to use what are always in emergency management, very scarce resources. We have to be strategic about what’s needed. What’s needed by whom? When? Where? Who can bring what to the table?

It’s a strategy for addressing everybody’s capacities, involving everybody. I love that picture at the top of the older women at the top. Who knew they might be very skilled at power tools? It’s a way of fully engaging all of us, not only at that response and relief moment, when it’s easy to have a nicer public, but when we need everybody’s energy the most—in mitigating hazards, identifying risks, addressing social vulnerabilities, and preparing for disasters.

Finally, a very importantly, I think this gender lens is a bridge to the future. There are different phases in emergency management, as you know very well, and this will not be without consequence. A gendered perspective on what we do will be a way of reaching the next generation, I think.

[Slide 5]

I think we first need to look into seeing beyond the stereotypes. That has been the point of gender in disaster research. These pictures have been the standard for so many—you may have seen some of the pictures that I respond so passionately to—but here are just a few. It’s a picture of men in heroic places—these fellows are getting honored for rescuing people in a recent disaster.

It is important to recognize the heroes who do give and risk their lives to help other people. Nobody would diminish that. My point here is that women are also rescuers and salvagers of important community resources and protectors of life, and yet our work is more often behind the scenes.

Similarly, the picture below that shows women as really immobilized by fear is a picture you can find anywhere—women standing, women watching, women observing, women passively present in a scene. It’s quite true of some women in some circumstances, but again, we need to move beyond it, and you could replace some men in that picture as well.

It behooves us all, long and short, to think about the real women and real men that we know in our daily lives and that we confront or work with in emergency management, rather than the stereotypes that a lot of what we do is still formed by.

[Slide 6]

We don’t have an awful lot of time, and I’ve organized my thoughts this morning to try to bring to you some of the main take-away messages over 2 decades now of gender and disaster research. Here you see them before you. Others might have organized this a bit differently, but I think that this is a useful way when we were talking earlier about what progress has meant. Last time I was here, I was talking about domestic violence. I think we’ve begun to understand a wider range of issues, although that is one of the most important as well.

These are the 10 points I’d like to spend some time on, and instead of reading them to you here, let’s just move on to the first point.

[Slide 7]

Sex and gender are not irrelevant in any convention of disaster, at any moment in the disaster cycle, at any level of analysis. To say that is not the same thing as saying that it is always the most important thing, and that is an important point.

Just consider some of the ways that gender and sex—and in shorthand, sex is that sense of biology, of embodied-ness that everybody in the universe carries, and gender is that cultural richness and texture that is created for women and men through the life cycle in different ways in different cultures. It’s much more complicated than that, but in general, sex is about our bodies, and gender is about our cultures.

In many different ways, let’s address some of the stereotypes and gender based division of labor, I’ll come back to. All of our social institutions are gendered. When we talk about working with youth, and working with schools, you have to understand that those schools are highly gendered. Working with elementary school teachers is going to mean working with women who are also mothers, for the most part.

That’s an important consideration for our work around schools. You might say the same thing about working with faith based organizations or community based organizations, in which women have traditionally, and in our country as well, have had very strong roles.

Sex and gender matter at the individual level in terms of who has resources, who has control over key resources, and who has access to them. By this we mean social vulnerability analysis needs, to a focus on things ranging from economic resources, transportation, that sense of efficacy, of being entitled to speak, of having a political place at the table, being able to bring the skills and knowledge assets that you have or to be heard, or not to be heard—and to other factors such as time, leisure, control of your own time, health, wellness, freedom from violence and capacity for self-protection.

Those are some of the ways we need to think about sex and gender, but let me move on to the second point.

[Slide 8]

This is a very important one, because often in conversations I have with students and at meetings, I get the sense that this is understood as a set of issues not really relevant to us in the United States. Actually, if we ever really believed that, I think Hurricane Katrina and Rita brought that into perspective. Of course, sex and gender matter in disasters in the United States, as well.

This is because the patterns of everyday life are gendered, and gender based inequalities that exist around the world still exist in the United States. We were celebrating International Women’s Day yesterday or the day before, and this is International Women’s History Month—those patterns of inequality are still quite present in our lives.

Also, global gender dynamics—the global gender division of labor, for example—brings women, for this country, in a different way, might look at immigration patterns. The picture on the right, for me, again these are FEMA photos, but they stand in for me for broader issues, she might be a domestic worker who has responsibilities as a caregiver to these children she’s with here in this picture, but she also might be a lifeline to children in another family.

She has dual responsibilities. In a crisis, we have to be able to reach her in both of her realities, as she’s a caregiver for her own family, and a caregiver to another. It’s the global maid trade, as we say, that brings very high numbers of women of color, women whose language skills may not be well-developed, into positions of vulnerability in our own country.

This one example—in looking at the little boy at the bottom, you might think about how our own patterns of the way we organize household life, for example with high levels of employment among both men and women, both mothers and fathers, leave children, including young boys, who might not have a sense of what their expectations or obligations are, their responsibilities that they might have in a crisis. They don’t necessarily have the same sort of support systems they had before.

[Slide 9]

The third point is, there are two things in play here. We focused quite a bit on inequalities. I’d like to emphasize here, differences. Differences again, in everyday life—differences based on reproductive capacities, or the stage of life at which men and women find themselves in terms of reproduction, in terms of who we think we are, and how we think we are. We make jokes in the classroom about the masculine command and control ethos that is under challenge, but it really goes deeper than that.

There’s a sense for many men that they are responsible for the welfare of others as economic providers, or in the picture of the fellow at the top, as somebody who can intervene and step in and take control in a crisis. Conversely, we find that women expect themselves to be the primary caregivers of those who are most dependent. So, here’s a picture of a woman with an infant. You might replace that with a picture of a person in terminal stages of illness, or people who are incapacitated by a mental disability, or a physical one, or both.

Primary care giving roles in our society still basically rest with women. These are differences that are sometimes related to inequalities. For example, who has power to make decisions within households—that’s a question of inequality. I think we need to look both at the division of labor, at the differences and the inequalities. Here you might think about fatality rates, and understand who died in the tsunami—disproportionately female—and who died in 9/11 attacks—disproportionately male in this country. Both relate to the gender division of labor.

[Slide 10]

Quick point, and I think it’s one thing we’ve really learned over research recently, is that both capacities and vulnerabilities emerge and develop over time in people’s lives. We focused mostly on vulnerabilities. We might look at the fellow at the bottom who might have some life experiences that situate him to be a pretty good fixer-upper of a house. At the same time, his growing up male in our society also brings him a lower level of perception of risk and a higher tolerance of risk.

In some circumstances, we could debate—this is good, this is bad. In disasters, we want people to be highly attuned to risk. We would like them to listen to us when we’re trying to talk to them about the need to prepare, to move furniture up, to get flood insurance, to evacuate, to take self-protective action. When you don’t, and we have an entire group of people who are male, and particularly (the research shows) who are Anglo, and who are relatively affluent men, who really deny, deny is probably too strong, who minimize risk, then we have a problem in a culture.

Without looking at those gender norms that increase that kind of risk, we’re not going to get to the root of the problem, I don’t think. That’s one example. Conversely, you can look at these capacities that are developed through life. The picture in the upper right is a picture of a doctor on her way to report to one of the hospitals in Katrina and she’s, of course, bringing supplies as well.

She works as a disaster responder both in an informal and a formal way. Here she brings a very gendered set of skills as a health practitioner. In some of the research that has been coming out after Hurricane Katrina, it has been very clear that women have strong social networks which again have been shown to be very influential in helping people interpret the kinds of messaging they receive, to make sense of them, to assess the credibility, to assess the need to act, and then to organize social action in ways that are protective.

These social networks that women bring, again, through their gendered life experiences, are very important. I might talk here about the women’s and men’s organizations, also at the community-based level. They are so important, and I think they are also a neglected resource that we need to tap into--women’s organizations that work on the basis of professional affiliations or education, or maybe faith-based or maybe around humans services, or maybe men’s organizations that work-based, or maybe based around political expressions of interest, or faith, or community service.

These are discreet; these are separate minds, if you will, of community-based organizing, and to date, we have still to tap into either one. They are highly gendered. They are for women and for men, by women and by men.

[Slide 11]

Moving on, I’d like to make this point further. I think this is one of the things that is most evident in this research. Neither sex nor gender can be considered in isolation anymore than age can be considered in isolation of ethnicity, or sexuality can be considered in isolation of our physical and mental capacities. We are such wonderfully complex everything-at-once people.

It is incumbent upon us in emergency management, whether we’re teachers, as I am, or practitioners, as many of you are, to take on board this rich complexity of people. It was quite astounding to see in the public policy report and the research that came out after Katrina, the extraordinary rush to speak in terms of race, ethnicity, culture (pick your term there—they each mean a little bit different thing), and or class, and to a lesser degree, there was some discourse around disability.

Yet, picture after picture after picture showed women in filthy water holding infants above them. There were a number of stories about sexual assaults and domestic violence in Katrina. In many other ways, women were present in a literal way, and yet when we begin to write about it and to reflect upon our experience, gender dropped off the table. This happens all the time.

It is important for us to recognize in the case studies that we’ve done that gender is a cross-cutting factor, and I’ll speak in a moment to the ways in which it is a direct factor that effects risk. Sex and gender are operative through the life course, so we begin understand—for gender, we might just begin at the beginning.

We need more research on differences between girls and boys in the United States as they are affected by disasters and if they might be able to be supported as mitigators and as voices of safety and higher mitigation in the future. As gender relationships between women and men change through the life course, you’ll find many more men in care-giving roles later in life, to a higher degree than they were earlier.

We need to be conscious, in other words, of the way that age and gender are integrated. Similarly, of course, with ethnicity—again, with a country that was built around immigrant population and still is such a mosaic, needless to say, has a very diffused and diverse set of gender relations.

When we talk about this norm of knowing our community, this is one of the most important conventions, but the one we rarely focus on. How are gender relations situating women and men and boys and girls, in different classes, and different ethnic groups, in any major city or any rural community? What does it mean to be a Mennonite woman? What does it mean to be a man of Islam living in Detroit right now?

These are gender realities that we need to take on for them. They cut right across different kinds of high risk groups, too. When you see lists of populations of people at risk, you rarely will see women, and I think there is a reason for that that I’ll get to in a minute.

These are some of the high risk groups that are predominantly female, and it behooves us to pay attention to that. For example, to know that in the United States, most of the poor will be female. In the United States, most of those who we would help in any way possible who are immobilized to a greater or lesser degree by the infirmities of age are going to be female.

When we reach out to homeless populations, women will move from couch to couch, from family to family, and men we will be able to reach through shelters. They are different. Their homelessness is grounded in different root causes and they respond to and cope with it differently. To reach them, we have to understand those patterns.

When we look at new immigrant populations, we might find that women have lower levels of facility in language than men. They might have higher levels of education, however. They will likely be more socially isolated, because men are more likely to be able to transfer their work and professional credentials from other countries and have higher rates of employment.

In single parents, of course, it’s a category we often look at. Sometimes it is confounded with gender itself, which is not accurate. We have rising numbers of single parents. Most of them are women. There are substantial numbers of men, however, who have primary responsibility for their kids. They generally do so with less social support, so to reach them we’re not going to be able to find them if we went to a network of single parenting, for example, to reach our public. They are less likely to be organized in those kinds of groups. However, they have higher income, so they might be able to take some of the actions that we would recommend.

In persons with disabilities, we know—there is some good research coming out after Katrina—about their unique experiences. They are much more likely to continue to be caregivers and to be mothers, to have responsibilities at home, to have somewhat lower levels of employment, higher levels of poverty, much higher levels of exposure to violence. If you know, for example, that in your community there is a low-income apartment complex, it’s important to know is it a place where older men are, or single men, or a place where older women are.

Speaking of social networks again, men are more isolated late in life, for many different reasons, and then are women. We would want to be able to reach them in different ways. We cannot make the same sort of assumptions—that to reach one group, we’re reaching everybody, for example.

This picture at the bottom is an interesting one for me, because it reminds me that men may have different needs later in life. This is a fellow who might not be able to speak English. The woman who is on the right might be an employee who is able to work with him, because she’s smiling, but at the same time, she might not be able to transcend the kind of age differences, and perhaps the differences in social class or ethnicity that may or may not exist.

We need to see how people relate to one another by what all of us are, rather than by one set of identities at a time. Gender cuts across all of the risk factors.

[Slide 12]

At the same time, they have a direct effect, as well; because we are the primary caregivers—when we lose our children, this picture at the top right, might be the picture of a woman who has just lost track of her children in the Superdome. Or, looking at the picture on the right, this is the picture of men whose health is jeopardized by the division of labor.

Granted, they have protective clothing in their Hazmat material exercise here, but we call it hazardous material for a reason. Men’s reproductive health can be affected by these kinds of roles they have in disasters. We haven’t taken that on board, not particularly.

There are reproductive differences that are direct results of sex and gender. Women endure different levels of exposure to interpersonal violence, which is different. Men’s violence at an interpersonal level is likely to be male on male. For women, as we know, it is likely to be male on female.

Women and men have different degrees of economic and housing security, and different levels of self-confidence and self-determination. That’s a political dimension of growing up female or growing up male. Certainly, we have different kinds of authority that comes from our professions.

In emergency management, the professions that men bring tend to bring more power and more authority as decision-makers. These are some of the more obvious kinds of effects—reproductive conditions, physical conditions.

Women and men have different kinds of chronic illnesses. If you wanted to look at some of the differences there, you would understand that women have higher levels of diabetes, for example. Men are going to have higher levels of drug and substance abuse, higher levels of heart conditions that make them less able to take on physically active roles, for example. Women are more likely to be in hospitals, incapacitated by recent childbirth (to make the most obvious point), and in a crisis are likely to be those who need the most assistance, in terms of our healthcare.

As I mentioned before, one of the most common findings is that women have higher levels of stress both before disasters and after disasters. One of the contributing factors there, aside from the overburdened nature of response, in other words, women who are responsible for caring for everybody, as well as for themselves, and being economic providers and re-builders of their own community, are also subject to increasing rates of violence.

We know this is true in some populations. We don’t know the degree to which it cuts across all populations. Our data is inadequate, but we can draw this conclusion on the basis of what we hear from the women who support women who live with violence, in other words the domestic violence and sexual assault centers that report. They are our best source of first-hand knowledge on that point.

[Slide 13]

One of the most important things that we are beginning to learn a little bit more about, and I am hoping to do some more research and writing on this very soon, is of course, that sex and gender matter in men’s lives because, as I said, they are people. You are people, and therefore sex is part of your life, as is gender. Our bodies are all sexed.

Men interact in gendered ways, not only with women—that is often our focus—but with other men. There has been one interesting study that I wanted to mention about different kinds of firefighters—structural firefighters and wildfire firefighters—and the competition, the really distracting kind of competition, that arose between those two grounded in different conceptions of masculinity. It is an example of the kind of total division between men that really can be intrusive and not helpful in an emergency situation. You could say the same thing about different forms of femininity, but I’m talking here about men.

The norms are, again, as I said, invulnerability. So you have men, for example, this person in the upper right, who may be distraught, but not able to reach for help, not able to say that he needs help, or not able to express, perhaps, his feelings, when he may have lost virtually everything and feel unable to rise to the occasion as the economic provider here.

I might have a picture here of someone who has lost the family farm due to draught or due to BSE and feels most responsible, more responsible than his partner, because of the inheritances of land and property and protected resources from man to man, from father to son.

But at the bottom, I have a picture that is quite telling to me, this might be one of the old, poor, African American men who died at disproportionately high levels in the Chicago heat wave in 1995—again, due to that juncture, that joining, of sex, gender, ethnicity, and economics. Kleinenberg writes in his book on heat waves very eloquently about the gender of isolation, and the degree to which older men, particularly this group of older men, lose contact with their families, are divorced from them, literally and symbolically, in ways that make them very vulnerable. They do not trust people. They are estranged from people.

So aside from all the other reasons we were not able to reach people effectively with good heat warnings in 1995 (I think that has changed), it was because we didn’t understand the gender component. Interestingly, we have to do our research, because in Europe in the 2003 extreme heat wave there, it was women who died disproportionately. Gender relationships take different forms in different cultures. It behooves us to understand that.

I have a lot more to say about men, but I leave that for now and come back to that with your thoughts.

[Slide 14]

Overall, it really is transparent that it is girls and women that are most affected. I use that word cautiously. It doesn’t mean that we always die in larger numbers, or that we are always economically affected worse, but taken as a whole, these factors that you see here listed are really explanatory factors that support that.

Because we are the breast-feeders, because we are the ones who are giving birth, because we are the ones who may not be able to get to a birthing center or whose pregnancy might be disrupted, or who might have unintended pregnancy because reproductive services were not available. Sex and gender matter most for women.

The picture in the upper right shows that women’s longevity matters, too. We live long enough to be able to live through a period of time when our minds may not function as well as they used to, or when our bodies don’t function as well as they used to. Women, because of our care-giving roles and because of our increasing presence in the labor force as well, are called upon to both protect and support, and help one another, and are also the ones, who because of the demographic patterns, are the ones most in need.

The point about expanded family care really can’t be overemphasized. Throughout the disaster cycle, we talk about families doing things—families evacuating, families relocating, families seeking help, families researching, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood to try and find cheap and affordable housing—very often, this is women’s work.

We find that men are able to go back into the labor force a little bit faster, due primarily to lack of child care and to their dominance in the formal sector, work at the larger employers, than are women, leading that kind of more diffuse work of building back the family, making sure the children are secure and stable to the greatest degree possible before they go back—falls more to women.

Another point that supports the point that women are most affected is that for women in the United States, as well as elsewhere, the home itself is a place of work, by which I mean of course, unpaid work, but here I’m thinking of income-generating work. Think of all the childcare provision that goes on inside the private home. It’s really true. When I studied the Grand Forks flood, where children were kept in basements, and when all those basements were flooded, it disrupted the entire child care system. It really slowed down the economic recovery of Grand Forks because women were not able to come back to work, even though the banks, for example, and some of the other major employers were ready to hire them, because they had lost that system of child care which was so often based in the home.

Homes are workplaces to women, that are very important. I mentioned already—women’s greater exposure to abuse. Economic uncertainties of women’s lives mean that we are less able to have, for example, cars (which we saw in Katrina). We are also less able to spend the kind of money that it may take to get shutters or to buy insurance, or to consider moving to a more secure or seismicly resistance home, or to recover in ways that reduce your future vulnerability, by replacing one kind of window with another kind of window. Women don’t have those same kinds of economic resources.

And the bottom picture shows to me that women are the operators of self-help organizations and community-based organizations. This is a picture of women who are social self-service workers within FEMA, corresponding and helping women who are coming from the community who operate very important non-profit organizations.

This is a very long story, and this is where most of the research rests. But what we still need to continue to look at is—which women? Why? Under what conditions? And with what effect?

[Slide 15]

Let me make a few last points. Women are organizing internationally as well as in the United States to reduce the risk of disasters. There have been a number of conferences—I think some of you have been participants in them. If you haven’t been, most of the proceedings from these conferences are available online, and you’ll find a lot of them on the Gender and Disaster Network website.

A number of different workshops beginning here in the United States with the one that we had in Miami on reaching women and children. The last conference (in the last 10 years there have been, unless I’m out of touch, nine conferences) the last was on gender and disaster in China—the preceding one was in Turkey. There were a number of conferences.

The one at the bottom that I recommend is the one that we conducted in Honolulu—Gender Equality and Disaster Risk Reduction Workshop. If you weren’t able to participate, that’s an excellent resource. You’ll find lots of papers there, background papers, the recommendations from some of the action groups, and including a very strong set of recommendations from an all-man panel.

I have to say just on the side, that I was the one who organized these workshops, these topics, these working groups, and did not think about the fact that men might want that social state to address gender issues in men’s lives and disasters.

It was actually really wonderful to see men take the initiative. They went off and did their own thing. They started their own meeting. They came back to the committee as a whole with a set of very strong recommendations. We had to further involve men in risk reduction.

A number of those men were from the United States. Bill Lovecamp was one of them, who is a cofounder now of the U.S. Gender and Disaster Resilience Alliance, which will see more of in a moment. Women are certainly organizing back to grassroots.

This is really the most important take-away message that we’ve learned in the last 20 years of observing what happens after disasters. We all know most of the energy, most of the media activity of any community are generated from the inside out, from the bottom up, if you will. This is really true when it comes to looking at women.

Women’s organizations, women’s businesses, women’s organizations and institutions and bureaus and agencies are also very important. But it’s that grassroots level where women know one another because they’re in the same mosque, or they’re in the same child care center, or because they’re in the same rural homemakers club, that unites women.

It’s that grassroots activity that is the sub-structure, the infrastructure, the critical social infrastructure, if you will, of recovery in so many communities. Women’s grassroots activity have been very important and supported internationally through development work. Here in the United States, you see the same thing.

When you look at who did what after Katrina, and again I keep coming back to that because it’s the most recent event, and it won’t be the last, certainly, but it’s the one that is strongest in our minds, currently. Many, many of the social justice organizations—The Disability Rights Organization, The Children’s Right’s Organization, and the domestic violence shelters— they are run by women.

They were very important, front and center, as social activist in bringing these communities back to a safer place. Women are also organizing in the workplace around emergency preparedness, not to the degree that I think we need it, but you definitely do see this, for example, in shelters and in child care centers, both in the United States and elsewhere.

The United Nations, the ISDR (the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction) has been very proactive around gender and risk reduction. One of the hats that I wear these days is as an international consultant. I’m doing quite a lot of work recently with organizations like UNIFEM, the primary group that works around gender equality to try to assess, for example, what were the lessons learned, what were the things that we did right, and the things we didn’t do so right around gender after the tsunami.

This is the kind of close-focused attention on gender and risk reduction that we don’t yet have in the United States. Finally, women are organizing with male colleagues, with male allies, in emergency management. This is the lovely logo of EMPOWER. I was privileged to be back in Washington, D.C. meeting some of the women of EMPOWER as an invited speaker to talk during their Women’s History Month.

I really admire the work they are doing—for example, their work networking with the local chapter of the Girl Scouts, towards preparedness work. The feeling on that also to develop mentorship programs and help encourage young girls coming into scouting to think about themselves as potential engineers, planners, and emergency managers.

Which brings me to the slide at the top—I don’t know if you all have seen this before (it was brand new to me)—but if we ever needed a symbol of the masculinization of this field, here it is. You’ll be happy to know that the same people who bring you these shorts, also have little baby jumpers for 3-month-old babies, making the same point, and pink t-shirts, also. So we have a lot of work to do there.

[Slide 16]

There are a number of tools and resources, and I won’t belabor that point, because I’m conscious of the time. The Gender and Disaster Sourcebook, which was supported by PERI, and also by the East West Central Pacific Disaster Center, an international team of scholars and activists, practitioners, who tried to bring together all the gender resources. There are a lot out there.

I’ve drawn from some of those to put together some handouts for you—actually, 8 different handouts. I think I’ll get to those in a moment. You’ll find those there, and a number of them are also here, as well. We have policy frameworks going that we’re using now in the wake of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. It’s a 6 principle for gender-fair response. I think I forwarded that to you, as well.

[Slide 17]

I think that, looking at our nation as a whole, at the turn of the century, we have an enormous obligation, I feel, to use this knowledge that has been so painfully won, by women and men around the world, including in every American community that is at risk for disaster (and that’s pretty much everywhere), to use what we know.

Most of this research is conducted with tax dollars. It is supported by our publicly funded institutions. We need to use this knowledge to help build a safer society for everybody. But we are missing the boat I think. I was really happy to have been up in Canada recently and had a chance to do an intense examination of all the ways gender might have been integrated.

I’d like to do the same thing here, in the United States, at some point. For example, and I won’t discuss each of these in turn, you won’t find very many lists of people at risk that included particular groups of women or particular groups of men. You won’t find in most texts, even the slightest allusion to the research around evacuation, for example, that shows that women are more likely to evacuate than men, and more likely to listen when we talk about taking protective action in the home after an earthquake.

Our training modules, particularly around, for example, mental health issues, identify the need to reach out to children and elders, to look at different language groups, but consistently fail to talk about gender. The list goes on. Risk communicators do not target men and women respectively, even though, in extreme heat, they are situated differently.

Risk mapping is another example. We find very little attention, other than routine statistical indicators, which are doing a pretty poor job of assessing or getting at the kind of gender relationships that I’ve said here are so dense and so complex. Women’s or men’s organizations rarely include stakeholders. These are some of the gaps I see.

[Slide 18]

This has led me to be one of the people who is trying to pull together a new sister organization to the Gender and Disaster Network, which will bring some of this knowledge gained from international experience, as well as from researchers and practitioners, to our own country to try and build a bigger tent of potential allies who can work together in the ways I’ve indicated here.

I’d hoped to have a Website for you today. I don’t yet. Please stay tuned and we’ll be circulating and asking for your contributions. I’m asking you to link in as possible.

[Slide 19]

There are a number of resources there for you to take a look at that answer questions about what are some of the most specific issues for men or for women, or what are the reasons for supporting gender equality. I’ve excerpted a number of materials from a gender mainstreaming training manual that I did under contract in Canada that I’d like to bring into the United States.

Those are the resources I would bring to the table, but here are my questions for you: What do you think are the most important points of entry? What do we most need to work on now? How can we develop a kind of critical mass to move forward in that direction? Concretely, what kinds of training materials (you’ve seen what I think is useful, but I’m not a practitioner—I’m not in a policy making position)? I do teach emergency management when I can.

I am really eager to hear your thoughts on this subject, and with this I will stop and give the floor over to you. Thanks for your attention to this long and rapid-fire presentation.

[Slide 20]

Amy Sebring: Thanks very much Elaine. We do appreciate it. Now, to proceed to our Q&A.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: Can you highlight, with an example or two, how our gender impacts are similar to other countries, and how they may be different from other countries experiences?

Elaine Enarson: That’s an interesting question. I think there aren’t too many differences of kind; I think the differences are of scale, more than anything else. You’ll find, for example, in the emergency planning we do or the exercising we do, women are less likely to be included here, and women’s organizations, for example, that might be active in disasters, are less likely to be included here.

In some of the developing countries, it’s even more marginalized from that, and that’s partly because the emergency management systems themselves are less likely to be fully developed. So I would say it’s basically a matter of scale than of difference. It’s not a question of comparing, for example, poverty rates. Women are the poorest of the poor in our country, and the poorest of the poor in India.

You’ll find concentration of women in the informal sector, and women’s economic recovery is not addressed in developing countries or the United States. Again, I think the question is more a question of scale there.

Laura Jull: I work as an emergency manager and I am on the Board of the local YWCA. Can you point me in the direction of research being done on domestic violence after disaster?

Elaine Enarson: Absolutely. Thanks for the question. There are 2 good chapters in the book we’re doing on women of Katrina. After Katrina and Rita, there was really an opportunity to organize some of that literature and there you’ll find also how battered women’s shelters responded in different ways to the disaster.

There is a lot of material out there on that, and I would love to be in touch with you about that. You’ll find some of those resources on probably 2 of the handouts I’ve provided. There are a number of different training manuals out for addressing domestic violence in disasters. Each of those have guides and checklists attached to them.

Christina Griffin: How can the research behind social vulnerability to disasters be applied to other non-emergency situations? For example, if we're looking for stakeholder involvement in mitigation, how can we apply the concept to gain access to socially vulnerable populations?

Elaine Enarson: That is exactly where we need to be focusing our attention—is to take a look at the literature that’s out there on what happens to women and men and different groups of people in disasters, and to learn from that, and to roll that knowledge about who is most vulnerable, but also who acted, out of what resources and capacities into our understanding of who the community is.

Once we have that richer, broader sense of who that community is, then we choose the so-called stakeholders a little more carefully in the future. We would reach out to women’s faith-based auxiliaries, for example, or we would reach out to men’s socials clubs, or men who are organizing as men against violence (one of the most interesting social movements among men to me) as potential planners.

If we understand the vulnerabilities that are around health, for example, our mental health and physical health, both for women and for men, and if we had a grasp for that, then we might begin to reach out to health providers, and to experts in men’s mental health and women’s mental health, and to women who live with disabilities and men with disabilities, and roll their expertise into our training manuals, into our exercises and into our awareness campaign.

It’s exactly where we need to be—using that literature. There’s a wonderful new text—I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to look at it—but Brenda Phillips at Oklahoma State University is one of the editors of it, and it involves many of us who were involved in putting together that FEMA course on social vulnerability.

It’s a great text called "Social Vulnerability to Disasters". It could be the foundation for a wonderful training manual. It really emphasizes the need to use this literature to be proactive and reduce risks. Thanks for that question.

Amy Sebring: Wouldn’t you agree that this impacts both the preparedness and recovery phases?

Elaine Enarson: Absolutely. I think recovery planning is the wave of the future. We absolutely have to look at those people who have the most to lose, and in some cases, that is going to be women. This is a very under-explored area. Women are primary earners in many families, but work and earn money in different ways.

We have to look at where women are employed and how, and what are the hazards and risks they are exposed to as income earners in the United States, so we can face economic recovery initiatives that don’t focus only on those people who have jobs or own their own homes.

Avagene Moore: I noted in a GD-NET email recently that an IASC E-learning course "Different Needs, Equal Opportunities" will be launched at the Commission on the Status of Women meetings in New York tomorrow, Thursday, March 11. Have you reviewed this? Is it open to anyone who may be interested in it?

Elaine Enarson: I think the answer to that is yes. I’ve followed the IASC work over the last couple of years. It’s really wonderful. It is listed here as one of the many mainstreaming guides and it’s very well done. There is a complimentary set of guidelines that IASC did just on gender-based violence that was carved out of that because it’s understood to be such a huge area.

This is a wonderful resource and to know that they now have an e-learning course based on that is huge. My only reservation again, is that it’s very international in focus, and I think we need something quite like that, but different, for the United States. I think that some of these international materials don’t quite fit to where we need to be.

Since I’m on that topic, let me draw your attention to one of the handouts, which is the one that is Gender Mainstreaming In Disaster Risk Reduction: Selected Practice Guides and Resources [and Elaine’s alternatives]. I just wanted to highlight this because the frustration is that we have a number of these guides. They’ve been out there for years. We have lots of literatures and actually lots of tools and checklists and procedural policy framework guidelines, best practices. We’re just not using them.

I offered a couple of years ago at a workshop in Boulder my own alternative, which is more geared toward building social relationships. Back to the person who is with the YWCA—if the YWCA can network its domestic violence work and the community can also integrate that into the local emergency management preparedness campaigns, how fabulous would that be?

Take the emergency manager to lunch, make sure that your information that’s on your website, if you’re a women’s group that is working on immigrant women’s rights, for example, that you exchange that information and knowledge that you have. If you’re working in gender studies around what happens to single mothers in a particular community, make sure that knowledge is shared with whoever it is that is putting together your risk map so that we can integrate that knowledge.

Many bridges can be built at the local level through networking and information exchange. I think that is perhaps the way to go. Anyway, there are resources out there for us.

Elizabeth Davis: Terrific presentation (as expected) and for the benefit of those interested in overlapping issues I just wanted to remind folks about the International Conference on Rebuilding Sustainable Communities for the Elderly and People with Disabilities after Disaster at UMass Boston July 12-15, 2010. The organizers have a very strong focus on gender integrated in the topics as well. Thanks again.

Elaine Enarson: Thanks for that note. That is one of the few conferences that has taken gender on board this seriously. Kudos to them for doing this—absolutely fabulous. Have a wonderful time at that conference.

J.R. Jones: I think that the excitement and perception of danger of a disaster might cause a flood of adrenalin in everyone, resulting in a magnification of 'male' behavior, seeking dominance, immediate action (not always well considered), demonstrations of anger and frustration , feelings of fear about being out of control. Some of this is productive, some counter-productive and causing lack of co-operation. I see both genders with this behavior.

Elaine Enarson: Interesting observation. I’d like to talk move about that. It makes me think of our mental health training guides. If that’s a factor here in shaping people’s perceptions and emotional responses to disaster, let’s take a closer look at it.

There are a lot of interesting topics, and we don’t have time unfortunately to explore, but I’d be happy to speak with you, with anybody else later, about how we can identify some issues that maybe we have been neglecting and most particularly, about the resources I’ve made available today and what you think are the most useful and about how we might strategically think about using those in some way so that we’re not back here in 5 years having a similar conversation.

Amy Sebring: I see this as part of attempt to get away from the one-size-fits-all approach. I’m thinking that the FEMA administrator is starting to recognize and acknowledge that, and this may be a key opportunity to say that this is one of those things that is not a one-size-fits-all.

Elaine Enarson: It’s absolutely not. It does fit in with so many of the new initiatives in the way we’re approaching emergency management internationally and also in the United States. Overall, I’m very optimistic that we’re on the right track.

Just one problem that sometimes comes up when you talk about gender in this way—people feel overburdened. They feel that it’s one more thing they need to do in a world where they don’t have enough time or resources already to do the bare bones of emergency management work. My answer to that has always been and will continue to be to build on the resources and capacities of everybody in your community.

All those organizations, all that knowledge, all that rich life experience is a time saver in the long run aside from anything else. It’s a way of doing our job more effectively, quicker, faster, and better. Once we get to that point, it won’t seem like more work. One-size-fits-all doesn’t translate necessarily into more work. It translates into easier, better than before.

Avagene Moore: You mentioned that although a lot has been learned and there is a lot being discussed globally about gender in disasters, the topic is not receiving much attention in the US. Is there any FEMA training specific to gender in disasters developed for state and local emergency managers?

Elaine Enarson: To my knowledge, the answer is no. One of the things that we’ve been talking about that I would love to talk with others of you who are still on the call (or maybe by e-mail later, because we’re out of time) is how to go about getting some modules that would target very particular issues, like gender dimensions of risk communication, gender dimensions of mitigation, gender dimensions of recovery planning.

These are modules that could be usefully integrated certification programs, and into higher education teaching as well. We just need to have a critical mass of people who would like to work with each other to make this happen. I welcome all your energies and your thoughts and potential partners to work with us on that. Thanks.


Amy Sebring: Time to wrap for today. Thanks very much Elaine for taking the time to share this information with us. If you will follow up in terms of when the new Website is ready we will pass the information along. We wish you continued success in your efforts going forward.

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We stand adjourned. Have a great day everyone!