3 concerns about Tohoku: PART 2 Gender issues

Three concerns I have now about where we are going in Tohoku
PART 2 is about Gender 
Women's rights vs. protecting women

I have been writing and reading trying to get information about what is going on with regards to GV and post disaster support for women.

Gender based and sexual violence tends to raise during/after disasters – natural and/or human made. In disaster management, it is important to take measures to not only looking out for GBV. However since Japan is a “safe” country some organizations have put aside the precautions they would ordinarily follow if they were doing relief work elsewhere.

No doubt GBV goes un/under -reported in all countries and Japan is no exception. However in times of crisis when the violence rises it is even more important not to suspend the rights and protections of women and children.

There are individuals and groups giving out whistles and cards with hotline numbers, but we need to also heighten the level of understanding that this is a problem and something that needs to be dealt with and not hidden. It is important for us not to point the finger but to push and support groups that are taking steps to help women in affected areas.
We need to keep raising this point in a practical way so that women are supported and not further victimized as I have been seeing.

Women do not need protection as much as we need to guarantee their rights are protected. I gave my class the scenario of a rape in an evacuation center they overwhelmingly agreed that the woman should be kicked out because she causes the rape. When I asked about her safety, they thought other women would be in more danger if he was kicked out and left to rape women “in the street.” when I asked my class about the other women in the evacuation center, they did not seem concerned because he probably did it due to stress.

So this bring me to my second point that there are some other basic issues we need to tackle as well on a daily basis and number 1 is gender stereotypes and ways of looking at the role of women. Women need respect not protection – but that means we all need to accept that women have rights as individuals first.

In particular the role of women and the importance of what is considered “women’s work.” What is considered to be women’s work is often unpaid work. This is not unique to Japan but in this disaster it is exaggerated.

In Japanese, they say women have 3 burdens – taking care of their children, husbands and husband’s parents. In the disaster situation, women need to tackle not only their care but deal with the stresses each of these people face as well. Also, women are dealing with all the home duties without even having a home. Women may be expected to volunteer to do the cooking and cleaning. Adding further pressure and burdens to the women who also have their own person problems.

If we can provide cash for work in Tohoku in everything from cooking and cleaning to skills training AND recruit men and women equally then I think we can avoid some of the discrimination while also offering women more chances.

We must also tackle head on the assumptions that women’s work is not worth paying for and therefore not valuable. Women themselves must also change their mindset that women only are required to do particular types of work that does not deserve payment.

We have a good chance to instill and idea of gender equity – that the work that women do is also valuable.
We have an opportunity to have more women involved in new ways that will revitalize communities.
Women do not need protection – we need to be respected as our own individual persons.


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