Accepted paper:

Gender, Development and Disasters: Learning from what we don't know


Sarah Bradshaw (Middlesex University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will reflect on what we don't know about gender and development, but we assume we do know, and what this means for 'engendering' disasters.

Paper long abstract:

The policies of mainstream actors to engender development have resulted in women being included in development projects and programmes, but for twenty five years gender academics and activists have highlighted how women's inclusion can be as problematic as their exclusion. Despite this, and despite twenty years of research specifically on gender and disasters, those responsible for disaster response and risk reduction generally borrow from gender and development to 'engender' their own policies and programmes. Chant's (2008) 'feminisation of responsibility and obligation' thesis highlighted the heavy costs to women of their inclusion in development programmes, and authors have suggested this feminisation applies in the context of climate change (Arora-Jonsson 2011) and disasters also, leading to the suggestion that 'engendering disasters should proceed with caution' (Bradshaw 2013). While five years ago this cautionary tone arose from problematizing what we knew from processes to engender development, more recent research (Bradshaw, Chant and Linneker 2017a, b) problematizing what we think we know suggests more reasons to be cautious. This paper will highlight some of the assumptions underpinning 'gendered' development policies aimed at reducing poverty and improving wellbeing and draw attention to the lack of evidence to support them. It ask what this means for processes to engender development, and disasters.

panel C07
Reinventing the Gender Wheel: what does a gendered approach to disaster management need to avoid?