While we continue to see traditional gender stereotypes reflected in decision-making around disaster relief and recovery planning, women’s voices and contributions are constrained, further contributing to marginalisation of women, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people.
It is important that we recognise the strengths, resilience, and skills of women in disaster planning and recovery and challenge misconceptions that they are passive, uninvolved and more suited to nurturing and caregiving during disaster recovery. Women are fundamental to keeping our communities safe and functioning.
In times of disaster rigid gender stereotypes and gendered expectations can become even stronger, rather than everyone working from the same equally respected place. The expectations that men should be more powerful, be in control, and be the final decision-maker creates a harmful stereotype for all genders. During times of disaster some men may assert more dominance and control over their partners and children, increasing the risk that they will perpetrate violence against women and girls. Increases in gender-based violence in the aftermath of natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have been well-documented globally.
Alongside this, the demands on women – caring for children and the elderly, looking out for community members, volunteering, and increased workloads – are excessive and increase the stress on individuals, families, and communities. Lack of services and difficulty in accessing services because of childcare and transport restraints can further endanger and isolate women.
Regional communities are impacted in unique ways by extreme weather events like heatwaves, bush fires and flooding. These conditions negatively affect our communities in terms of farming, economic security, transport, access to services and social connectedness, and have a unique impact on women in terms of mental health load and unpaid care responsibilities. Whilst climate change affects everyone, women’s voices are rarely heard when it comes to community conversations regarding climate change preparedness and planning.
Recognising both the challenges and strengths that migrant women hold in adapting to life in a new country, WHLM developed a project that centres migrant women’s voices and lived experiences and highlights their strengths in adapting to climate change.
Activities and objectives:
The project engaged six women from Karen and Filipino communities as Climate Change Community Advocates.
Through a series of workshops participants deepened their understanding of climate change and climate adaption and undertook activities that helped them to identify their resources, skills and strengths (e.g. strong community relationships, communication skills, bilingual skills) that can be used to protect the things they value (e.g. family, healthy communities and nature).
Following this, participants shaped and delivered two community-based conversation sessions in Bendigo and Pyramid Hill where they shared their knowledge of climate change and strengths in adaption with peers.
Upon project completion, WHLM Climate Change Advocates reported increased confidence to facilitate community events– this was a great opportunity to demonstrate women’s leadership and involvement in important conversations taking place around climate change.
“I feel a lot more confident after the community conversation event. If I had to facilitate and lead another community events I would be less nervous and would be more relax about it.” – Karen community leader and WHLM climate change advocate.
“It was imperative to have this kind of the community conversation event. I was so thrilled having this chance to share about adapt climate change and learnt more about how my community sustain the food due to the climate. This is so precious experience and I intend to able to hold this kind of event more often.” – Karen community leader and WHLM climate change advocate.
Similarly, community members who attended the events reported an increased understanding of climate change and adaption:
“I learnt about climate change and met new friends” – Karen community member, male, 34
“I learnt how to grow and how to plan for changing weather. I’m happy to be here to meet new people and be with my community.” – Karen community member, female, 50yo
Empowering regional and rural women in the Loddon Mallee, and supporting community led recovery following the 2022 Victorian Floods. Read more…
Take a look at our collection of resources to find research, reports, submissions and more around Women in a Changing Society.