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Centre for Gender and Disaster (CGD)

GDN has a sister organisation which focuses on building the research evidence base for gender and disaster: the Centre for Gender and Disaster at the Institute for Risk and Disaster Recovery (IRDR) at UCL in London.

We will post information here as well as the Centre's own webpage.

Virginie Le Masson joins us

Dr Virginie Le Masson, long time associate of the Centre for Gender and Disaster, has now joined us at UCL. Virginie is the new Global Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator for the GRRIPP project (see below) and takes her place as one of the Co-Direcotrs of the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster alongside Dr Punam Yadav and Professor Maureen Fordham.

Virginie is a Geographer by training, her research looks at gender inequalities and violence-related risks in places affected by environmental changes and disasters. Her recent studies focused on gender-based violence affecting the resilience of women and girls in the Sahel region. Virginie is also a Research Associate with the Overseas Development Institute, a development think tank based in London, where she worked for almost 5 years on resilience-related studies in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2017, she co-edited a book (published by Routledge) with Prof. Susan Buckingham on the importance to address climate change with attention to gender relations and power relationships.

Virginie is a lon term member of GDN and will be contributing to its development over the next few years.

Big news from the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster - An important new grant

IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster is leading an innovative new project which starts today. It is called GRRIPP - Gender Responsive Resilience & Intersectionality in Policy and Practice – Networking Plus Partnering for Resilience and it is funded by the UKRI Collective Fund. GRRIPP is a new global network which will disrupt conventional development thinking around “gender” in crisis contexts and - based on decolonial approaches, indigenous knowledge and grassroots experiences - it will offer new ways of thinking about gender equality and inclusion in disasters and conflict.
GRRIPP is a collaboration between UK academics and three regions: Africa - Coordinated in Durban, South Africa; LAC - Coordinated in Lima, Peru; and South Asia - Coordinated in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dr Mahbuba Nasreen, who coordinates the Bangladesh GDN Hub, and Dr Kylah Forbes-Biggs, who coordinates the GDN Africa Hub, are both part of the GRRIPP team. We will be reaching out to all our Hubs and all our members to invite them to get involved in what we do. We have not planned everything out because our activities will be generated from the regions themselves and their selection of what are the key issues to focus on.
1 November 2019 is Day 1 of GRRIPP and we hope to reach out widely in the 4 years of the project to connect to academics, researchers, students, practitioners, government representatives at all scales, and grassroots groups. GDN and the Centre for Gender and Disaster are very closely linked so look out for more information as the project unfolds and please get in touch with us if you have ideas to share or would just like to be more closely connected. You can email any of these addresses:
m.fordham@ucl.ac.uk | p.yadav@ucl.ac.uk | irdr_cgd@ucl.ac.uk

Twitter @GRRIPP

We are grateful to the ESRC for providing funding.

London evening seminars from the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster

On Thursday 27th February 2020, the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster will hold another of its monthly evening seminars at UCL in London.

Who is vulnerable, why and to what?
Terry Cannon of IDS (Institute of Development Studies at University of Sussex)

What would it take to make the concept “vulnerability” useful again? It is the most widely-used term when discussing disasters, both in academic work but also the media and wider public. But what does it mean? Is it still useful, and how does it relate to other terminology such as ‘resilience’? This presentation will argue for a people-centred approach to the concept that highlights the various social processes that generate vulnerability. This enables us to understand that vulnerability has components that relate to politics, economics and social factors and has to be related to the wider economy as well as complex factors involving people’s perception of risk.

Terry Cannon is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (at the University of Sussex), where he teaches and researches on climate change, natural hazards, disaster risk creation and the role of culture in people’s risk-related behaviour. He is co-author of At Risk: natural hazards, people’s vulnerability and disasters, and was one of the lead editors/authors for the IFRC (Red Cross) World Disasters Report 2014: focus on culture and risk. He also teaches at other universities including King’s College London, the University of Copenhagen.

Once again we will livestream via Twitter @ucl_gd

Find the talk on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ucl_gd/status/1233090213599219713?s=21

London evening seminars from the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster

On Wednesday 27th February 2019, the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster will have the second of its monthly evening seminars (on the last Wednesday of the month) at UCL in London.

Hanna Ketola of Kings College London will speak on: ‘Withdrawing from Politics? Gender, agency and women ex-fighters in Nepal’

Hanna's talk explores subjectivities of women who fought in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Nepal, and the subsequent insights this provides for theorising agency in post-conflict contexts. It examines “withdrawing from politics”, a dynamic whereby women ex-fighters move away from the public sphere and collective mobilisation and rearticulates this withdrawing as a location of political agency. Through engaging with the narratives of ex-fighters, Hanna problematises the figure of the resistant female agent that haunts the otherwise nuanced feminist analysis of post-conflict agency.

Once again we will livestream via Twitter @ucl_gd

30th January 2019

London evening seminars from the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster

On Wednesday 30th January 2019, the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster kicked off the first of a series of monthly evening seminars (the last Wednesday of the month) at UCL in London.

Our guest speaker was JC Gaillard with a presentation to stimulate discussion: Studying gender in disaster: how far have we got? JC discussed how much the study of gender in disaster has progressed over the past 40 years. He argued that, in many ways, we are still reproducing a number of biases that were criticised in the 1970s, hence often pursuing, often unconsciously, an agenda that primarily serves Western researchers at the detriment of those who are most often affected by disasters in the rest of the world.

This link will take you to the livestream of the event: https://twitter.com/UCL_GD/status/1090672179497308160

All seminars run from 18:00 pm - 19:30 in the same UCL location: Room 106 Gordon House, Gordon Street: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/gordon-house-106
Contact Maureen Fordham or Punam Yadav for more details.

Other Wednesday dates for your diary in the same location are:
27 February 2019
27 March 2019
24 April 2019
29 May 2019
26 June 2019

On November 20th 2018, the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster hosted the IRDR Network Roundtable Dinner in the Haldane Room at University College London. Our Guest Speaker was Colette Fearon, Oxfam's Director of Humanitarian Programmes and the subject was 'gender rights'. Colette outlined the many advantages that came from taking a feminist stance in programming. In particular, because everyone seemed to have an opinion on it, it was a useful mechanism to get people engaged in thinking about gender.

"We believe that transforming gender and power relations, and the structures, norms and values that underpin them, is critical to ending poverty and challenging inequality. We believe that women taking control and taking collective action are the most important driver of sustained improvements in women's rights, and are a powerful force to end poverty not only for women and girls, but for others too."

The evening also included the annual prize giving for this year's graduates from IRDR programmes

28 June 2018, Women’s Economic Empowerment in Post-Disaster Reconstruction: A Study of Tohoku. Download the blog here

Blog post #1

by Dr Punam Yadav, Research Fellow, IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster and Professor Maureen Fordham, Director, IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster

The IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster hosted its first seminar event on 28th June 2018. The event was organised in collaboration with DAIWA Anglo-Japanese Foundation. The event was chaired by the Director of the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster Professor Maureen Fordham and there were two invited speakers, Asaka Osaki, Visiting Professor from Kwansei Gakuin University and Daniel Morchain, Senior Advisor on Resilience and Climate Adaptation from OXFAM, and the discussant for the evening, Dr Punam Yadav, Research Fellow from the Centre for Gender and Disaster.

The event focused on Women’s Economic Empowerment in post-2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan. Giving a brief introduction to the context, Professor Fordham said, “women are typically depicted vulnerable” and their agency is completely ignored, which is problematic and misleading. Firstly, women are not a homogeneous category and secondly, they are impacted differently, and play different roles in post disaster situations. Therefore, the diversity of their experiences and their agency need to be recognised for any post disaster reconstruction and recovery.

Visiting Professor Osaki talked about the gendered impacts of the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku and shared her experience of working with women in Tohoku on a women’s economic empowerment project funded by OXFAM Japan. She talked about a three-step approach for women’s economic empowerment which focussed on building self-confidence, developing critical thinking skills and providing training on entrepreneurial skills. She said the intervention was very successful as women, when they got together as a group, realised that they are not the only ones who suffered but it was the experiences of everybody in that community. They took part in trainings and started their own businesses and since then their lives have completely transformed. Professor Osaki emphasized that gender should be at the core of post-disaster reconstructive as it is an opportunity to transform the society impacted by disaster.

Daniel Morchain, Senior Advisor from OXFAM, gave a very engaging presentation on the assumptions around women, gender and vulnerability. He talked about how women are seen as vulnerable without taking into consideration other intersecting identities such as age, education, ethnicity, economic status, religion and so on. He said, vulnerability is not – or should not be – attached to the gender of a person but there are many intersecting identities/factors that put them into vulnerable situations. He also talked about another common assumption about women as victims. Women are not always the victims, but they are also agents of change so what we need to do in post-disaster situations is to create enabling environments for them to exercise their agency. He also talked about another assumption where gender relations are static. However, that’s not true. Gender relations change depending on the context and likewise, the relations in households. Lastly, he talked about another important assumption, that ‘we know what people want’. He said these assumptions are misleading. He emphasized the importance in needs assessments of understanding which needs to consider, not only present needs but also future aspirations.

Dr Yadav in her discussant’s comment added that local skills and capacities are not taken into consideration even by those who talk about agency. The recognition of what they already have and what they are capable of doing are equally important for the transformation of society coming out of disaster. She also added that vulnerability is not static. It changes over time and with the changing context. Dr Yadav shared some of her work on Nepal where conflict and recent natural hazards have pushed women to do things that they had never done before. However, despite their vulnerabilities in roles, they have transformed their lives and these transformations in small spaces are now challenging the whole notion of womanhood and leading to transformation of society. She also problematised the notion of empowerment, how empowerment is understood as something that is ‘given to you’ by someone who is already empowered, which is not true. Empowerment is not about giving power to somebody, but it is about creating a necessary environment which allows them to exercise their agency. It is also about recognizing what they already have, which may not fit with or could be different from top-down forms of empowerment.

There were some great questions from the audience. They were keen on knowing whether there had been resistances and backlash to these programmes. Whether there needs to be a disaster before we have the opportunity for change. Also, in understanding what these women’s economic programme will mean in the wider Japanese context. Will they lead to some form of wider societal change? Finally, the Director of IRDR, Professor Peter Sammonds, was interested in hearing about considerations beyond this specific project which considered the complexity of the ‘totality of the gender dimension’.


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