As the ASEAN moves toward efforts at responding to natural disaters as a region, it has yet to fully integrate the gender approach in its regional disaster response. Already in the community-building phase of its institutional evolution, certain issues still remain in the norm-construction stage. In the case of women’s human rights in particularly difficult circumstances (e.g. natural disasters situations), there is very faint discursive recognition in institutional agreements. In the case of individual ASEAN Member States (AMS), there are more evident efforts as regards mainstreaming gender in natural disaster institutional infrastructure and mechanisms – although with some countries fairly more advanced than others.
This study was undertaken in order to compile policies and practices on women’s protection in situations of natural disasters and to document best practices in gender mainstreaming in natural disaster response and assistance, particularly, those that provide spaces for women’s participation. It was guided by an institutionalist perpective that sought to locate gender in laws, policies/plans, institutions, and practices.
Based on the indicative results of the study, the summary observations are the following:
- Supporting the institutional infrastructure are different mechanisms in the form of national laws, policy directives, and/or actions plans. The natural disaster discourse is usually integrated into the meta- framework of sustainable development, climate change adaptation, or national security.
- Integrating the gender approach into these meta-frames depends on: (a) the maturity of gender mainstreaming in the whole governance architecture; (b) the extent to which gender is recognized as an issue; and (c) the discursive construction of women in these societies.
- There are also varying appreciations for and on women’s participation in the different aspects of natural disasters from the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Nonetheless, integrating the gender approach in the institutional infrastructure of natural disasters can be a substantive entry point to operationalize women’s protection and empowerment, primarily because of the care roles they play in their families and communities.
- However, women’s specific concerns – such as sexual and gender-based violence, violence against women and girls, women’s economic and political empowerment – are difficult to surface, discuss, and make a matter of concern in natural disaster and emergency/crisis institutional infrastructure and mechanisms.
- In terms of identifying the efforts of each AMS on mainstreaming gender in their natural disaster institutional architecture and instruments, the deduced categories are: (a) incipient efforts (i.e. initial recognition but not yet institutionalized at the strategic level); modest efforts (i.e. early stages of inclusion at the strategic level and/or efforts done more in practice by government or non-government organizations); moderate efforts (i.e. gender-mainstreaming evident at the strategic level); and strong efforts (i.e. gender-mainstreaming evident at both strategic and operational levels).
- From the perspective of community women and non-government actors from different countries, the need to mainstream gender should be reflected not just in the strategic and operational levels but more so in implementation on the ground.
- And lastly, particular patterns at the ground level should also be recognized and considered in the design of natural disaster and emergency/crisis institutional governance. These are women’s contribution to early warning and prevention, the intersection of gender and culture in disaster relief and response, gender dimensions of migration, and women’s access to resources in post-disaster situations, to name a few.