Reports of mortality in post-tsunami villages in South Asia in 2004 provide startling statistical evidence of gender disparities in the impacts of disaster: in village after village women made up in excess of 70% of reported deaths. Gender, the socially constructed differences between men and women which arise from learned behaviors, has real world consequences in the context of disaster. Clearly demonstrated in so-called natural disasters, gender issues can be even more pronounced in armed conflict disasters, where gender-based violence, rape as a weapon and victimization have become all too common.

Gender as a theme presents many complicated issues and often confronts deeply held beliefs. Many misconceptions persist, and the strong influence of historically validated male privilege can be a silent patron standing behind both individual and institutional resistance to change.

Broad-scale social change is generally not a key necessity expressed by disaster victims in the needs assessment phase, but the failure to take the gender perspective into consideration is not simply a matter of acquiescing in local normative practices. As humanitarian practitioners, we are committed to providing assistance without discrimination on the basis of need, and to do so we must be diligent in learning who needs what, and how to get resources, and control over resources, into the hands that need them. And we must do this in way that does not exacerbate inequalities, or put vulnerable people at even more risk.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action provides a very good staring point to understand the need to mainstream the gender perspective into program planning and implementation. Clearly written, and with numerous checklists, definitions and reference materials, this document provides a solid framework for putting gender at the center of program actualization.

The Gender and Disaster Sourcebook is a resource of the Gender and Disaster Network and holds a rich variety of information and learning tools for gender work. Under the link “Good Practices” you will find links to a wide range of practitioners, lessons learnt, and active organizations throughout the world.

Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action, IASC

It is important to recognize the different needs, capacities and contributions of women, girls, boys and men. Ignoring or being blind to these different needs can have serious implications for the protection and survival of people caught up in humanitarian crises. This Handbook sets forth standards for the integration of gender issues from the outset of a new complex emergency or disaster, so that humanitarian services provided neither exacerbate nor inadvertently put people at risk; reach their target audience; and have maximum positive impact.


Gender and Disaster Sourcebook

The Gender and Disaster Sourcebook is a one-stop user-friendly electronic guide to help answer these questions. The outcome of a year-long project to consolidate and organize English-language materials in the field. What is the link between gender equality and disaster risk? What lessons have been learned in the field and through scientific study? How can this knowledge be applied in practice?

Toward Gendered. Disaster Policy, Practice, and Research.

Elaine Enarson and Betty Hearn Morrow.

The conclusion of Enarson and Morrow’s The Gendered Terrain of Disaster: Through Women ‘s Eyes provides three “guideposts” the authors identify as common threads running throughout women s disaster experiences, as well as some thought-provoking ideas to develop new policy directions, new practices for disaster organizations, and new questions for disaster social science

Gender, Disaster and Development: the necessity for integration.

Maureen Fordham

Chapter 4 of Natural Disaster and Development in a Globalizing World argues for the necessity of integrating gender, disaster and development, and examines the shortcomings of seperating the concepts of gender, disaster and development.

Indian Ocean Tsunami Through The Gender Lens

Chaman Pincha, with support from Oxfam America and the Nanban Trust, has written a study of gender impacts related to the Indian Ocean Tsunami with a particular focus on Tamil Nadu.

In addition to reviewing the record of this momentus disaster, this work offers concrete, actionable suggestions and recommendations to humanitarian agencies and others to improve planning and performance.


The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981-2002.

Eric Neumayer and Thomas Plümper.

This article addresses the specific vulnerability of girls and women, with respect to mortality, from natural disasters and their aftermath, including an analysis of the causes that lead to the relatively higher female disaster mortality rates compared to men.

University of Hawaii at Manoa; Center of Excellence in DMHA; ICRC

Contact Information

Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
2424 Maile Way, Saunders Hall 118
Honolulu, HI 96822