In Disaster Zone, Women are Key

Women's groups must have a seat at the tsunami-recovery table

| January 27, 2005

Women are uniquely victimized in disaster zones. They fall prey to opportunist human traffickers. They are less likely than men to receive relief supplies. They often face increased domestic violence triggered by the stress men bear when suddenly unable to support their families. Reproductive health usually takes a back seat to emergency care, putting women and their newborns in a precarious spot.

Women are also uniquely poised to help in reconstruction efforts. According to Swanee Hunt, director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and Don Steinberg, senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, women 'have their fingers on the pulse of the community' and have 'the best access to devastated families.' Women are also better at disregarding ethnic, religious, and political barriers for the sake of delivering aid -- no small task in devastated, politically unstable places like Aceh, Indonesia.

Hunt and Steinberg make the case that supporting women in the areas devastated by the tsunami isn't just a gender-sensitive policy, it's a good reconstruction strategy.
-- Hannah Lobel

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