Did you know that women, girls, men and boys are often affected differently by disasters? While natural hazards make no distinction as to who they strike, underlying “man-made” vulnerabilities – such as gender inequality caused by socioeconomic conditions, social norms, cultural beliefs and traditional practices – can leave some groups much worse off than others. Disasters harm all, but they often disproportionally affect women and girls because of their lower access to political, economic and social resources as well as social and cultural gender-specific expectations and norms.
In fact, women’s and girls’ disaster mortality tends to be higher than that of men and boys. Case in point: Four times as many women than men were killed in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India during the 2004 tsunami. A big reason for this is that men learned how to swim and climb trees at young ages, while women did no. And 90% of the victims of the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh were women, because social and cultural norms restricted their mobility. Beyond this direct impact, women and girls are also subject to indirect impacts in the aftermath of disasters including loss of livelihoods, increase in workload, rise of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), deterioration in sexual and reproductive health, loss of education for girls and limited access to post-disaster remedies and compensation.