Are we really doing equitable and inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction?

Monday, July 26, 2021

Can we answer these questions about effective gender equity and social inclusion in our teams and programmes?
Effective gender equity and social inclusion (GESI) work in disaster risk reduction requires understanding, time, resources, commitment and accountability. It’s about the active engagement and empowerment of social groups that experience disproportionate effects during disasters.

Get our own house in order first

First, ask is there gender balance and diversity within the team?

Women, gender minorities and other under-represented people must play important roles. They can provide key insights from their own lived experiences, something especially important when working with other marginalised groups. This can also be critical for practical reasons such as when we need to facilitate an all-woman focus group discussion. It helps us filter out the power imbalances that affect data quality, analysis and how inclusive and impactful the interventions we design are. It can also mean we’re asking questions from a position of shared (though by no means equal) experience and empathy.

We have to lead by example to champion GESI. Not only does diversity in our teams demonstrate our values, it also encourages leadership from under-represented groups.

Do we have the broad knowledge, understanding and confidence to address these issues?

Barriers to integrating GESI approaches into development and DRR programming can come from a lack of lived experience, expertise and confidence to take the right approach. Challenging unequal power dynamics and social exclusion can be difficult from a cultural, political or personal perspective. There is research to suggest that NGO staff might overlook issues, like gender identity or sexuality, because they cause unease and there are insufficient protocols, training or resources to deal with these issues across different cultural contexts.

If not, what is to be done?

When the diversity and consequent lived experience isn’t present, we should be honest about this and invest in training to ensure minimum standards. We should set our intentions to work towards and invest in diversity in the long term. It must be prioritised, budgeted and resourced. Building a learning environment with regular, focused team discussions to take stock, reflect and review is essential. Supporting peer-to-peer learning and creating spaces to share best practices or strategies can be another powerful tool.

Have we done the specific contextual analysis to know the disaster risk from a gender equity and social exclusion perspective?

Has analysis been made of why people excluded by social, economic and cultural factors within the project context are more vulnerable? Social dynamics can contribute to the marginalisation and vulnerability of women, gender minorities, the elderly, the young, the disabled, ethnic or religious minorities. This analysis, according to this ODI report on Gender and Resilience, can “inform practitioners about…the gendered patterns of access and control over natural, socio-economic and political resources.”

As described in a previous blog on gender equity and social inclusion, by taking an intersectional approach, we uncover the dynamics that shape vulnerability and resilience. In every context there are cultural nuances and inequalities in access to markets, assets, decision-making power, workload, livelihood opportunities, income, capacities, and individual’s overall agency and control in their lives. The design of projects must rely on a clear understanding of context-specific gender and cultural norms and how these influence vulnerability to risk. Consider how project activities could address and even challenge these norms with the aim to build resilience.

Similarly, do we have the budget and resources?

These can be some of the biggest barriers to integrating GESI into our work. We can focus attention, commitment and therefore resources by committing early, creating organisational policies, and including realistic, achievable and measurable indicators in our monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plans. By factoring in costs for this work early we can avoid excuses on the basis of budget down the line and avoid falling short of commitments.

Who is responsible and accountable for this work?

It should be all of us. We have to shift away from the idea that integrating this work into programming is the responsibility of a select few, such as gender advisors. We are all responsible and accountable for meeting the needs of women and marginalised people. Otherwise we cannot hope to have the impact we claim.

How are we growing knowledge and sharing learning?

Invest in research and capturing knowledge which can build capacity beyond our own work. Demonstrating progress and highlighting achievements through case studies helps to demonstrate the value of GESI programming.

Commit early, monitor and evaluate…

Are people of different genders, ages, abilities, identities being engaged from the start?

It is not about consulting people in superficial or tokenistic ways. We must genuinely include marginalised people in the planning, design and delivery of projects. This includes planning for the right methods, including age and disability-appropriate approaches, to effectively engage others. It also helps us build in the concept of durability. By involving women, young, elderly, people living with disability, indigenous people and others in the design, formulation, programming and monitoring of DRR strategies, you can help secure the ownership and long-term sustainability of your project.

Have we set the right goals in the Theory of Change or other project start-up documents?

These documents, apart from setting our intentions and holding ourselves accountable, drive our work towards challenging inequality and exclusion. If serious about this work, our project objectives and activities should explicitly refer to differing capabilities, roles, representation and decision-making powers, and address the practical and/or strategic needs of the most vulnerable groups. Committing to taking a GESI approach must happen right from the very start. Setting achievable and attainable goals, and thinking about what we need to do to verify our claims is better than aiming too high and falling short.

Does the project have specific GESI indicators in M&E plans to monitor and evaluate the project against?

Have the team considered the means of verification and how to monitor these? When we include these indicators, we have the chance to check – are the interventions making a difference? Reducing vulnerability? Shifting power relations? Improving decision making, confidence or agency? If not then we must ask whether we are taking the right approach or if something needs to change. If yes, then we can capture and share this knowledge with others. We can prioritise doing it more and even better in the future.

Who is collecting the data, and how are they doing it?

As described above, it matters who does the work. We must all champion systematic data collection, disaggregated by sex, age and disability as a minimum. Where possible, we should consider what other factors drive social and economic exclusion and collect that data as well (economic status, geography, ethnicity, caste, and religion, etc). Use this data to inform your project and make the needs and capacities of marginalised groups visible to decision-makers.

And then look externally…

Are we working with men, boys and the wider community to improve the enabling environment?

Women, gender minorities and people who may be socially, culturally or economically excluded face entrenched structural disadvantages in many societies. However, it is not enough to focus on these groups in isolation. We need to interrogate their relations with men, boys and the wider community. Identifying and engaging with the gatekeepers in communities is also important.

Are the interventions gendered?

Moving ‘beyond participation’ means ensuring the sex, age and disability-appropriate engagement with marginalised groups. It’s usually not enough to provide equal opportunities e.g. a training session to the whole community. Lives, livelihoods and other cultural factors get in the way. Instead, we can take extra efforts, or positively discriminate, to push forward equal participation through our approach. This means we could carry out training for women and gender or other minorities at separate times or locations that fit with their lives and activities. It could include training for groups in the community that have specific needs for learning and understanding. By taking appropriate approaches, we encourage questions, explore experiences and gather the perspectives of a wider range of people.

Are we addressing practical or strategic needs?

Addressing practical gender needs means the interventions and activities aim to meet the day-to-day practical needs of women and men and improve their condition of living. Addressing strategic gender needs means interventions address the structural inequalities pertaining to division of labour, access to and control over resources and decision-making to improve the relative position of men and women e.g. access to land, markets, equal wages, opportunities, decision making etc.

Finally, are we aiming to be gender transformative?

This approach is thought to produce more lasting development outcomes, from ‘interventions that combine efforts to enhance access to resources, technologies and markets that understand and challenge the social context that enable inequalities to persist’. Being gender blind in our assessments or assuming all people have equal needs risks further marginalising or reinforcing inequalities.

Use these questions to guide conversations, workshops, reflections on M&E plans, project proposals, and progress.

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