Accepted Paper:

Multiple disasters and women-headed household's vulnerability: a missing element in governmental and non-governmental responses in Orissa, India  
Nibedita Shankar Ray (Warwick University)

Paper short abstract:

Orissa experienced the super-cyclone in 1999, floods in 2001 and 2003 and drought in 2002. Drawing on the narratives of women-headed households, I explore how these discrete disasters sociologically turned into 'multiple disasters' in these women’s lives.

Paper long abstract:

Multiple disasters pose serious challenges to South Asia's development. The consequences for the poor in particular, are well known. Little is known of the specific ways recurrent multiple disasters affect women-headed households in rural areas and the efficacy of government and non-government responses to mitigate the impact on these households. This particular study attempts to bring these issues to the fore in the context of Orissa, an eastern state in India, highly prone to multiple hazards (floods, cyclone, and drought).

Orissa has recently experienced a number of high-profile disasters, namely the super-cyclone in 1999, floods in 2001 and 2003, and drought in 2002. To mitigate the impact of multiple disasters the government and non-government organisations in Orissa responded through relief, shelter, housing and micro-credit. Given this multiple disasters situation and multiple disaster responses over a period of five years (1999-2004), this study brings out the sociological and gendered aspect of multiple disasters from a particular group of women headed households who have lived through all of these disasters in one particular place. Also the efficacies of the government and non-government disaster responses have been assessed based on women's stories of vulnerability reduction.

Methodology adopted for this study was largely qualitative in nature. Various methods adopted to collect data were participant observation for a period of eight months (August 2003- April 2004) in a rural coastal village of Orissa; complimented by structured, semi-structured and un-structured interview techniques; and documentary evidence. Therefore this study in social anthropological perspective explicates not only gendered living experiences of multiple disasters, but also how "multiple disasters" in general is perceived by government and non-government organisations - manifested through their disaster policies in increasing/reducing gender vulnerabilities to multiple disasters.

Panel W078
When the worst happens: anthropological perspectives on crises and disasters