At Foundation Beyond Belief, we put a strong focus on effective, evidence-based philanthropy. We consult with experts, devour the literature on the subject and do a great deal of research to make sure that when we choose a beneficiary, those funds are going to organizations that can really use them for maximum benefit. Samantha Montano, one of our great staffers who is doing her PhD in disaster recovery, explains why we selected the Women’s Foundation of Nepal as the first beneficiary of our fund drive after the horrible earthquake there:
In general, women in many parts of the world lack access to healthcare. During and after disasters this is exacerbated as healthcare facilities are destroyed and overwhelmed by individuals with disaster-related health needs (Callaghan, et al., 2007). Specifically, women lack access to reproductive health care during the early stages of recovery (Enarson, 1999).
Despite the post-disaster environment being filled with pro-social behavior (chaos and looting are considered to be “disaster myths” by experts (McEntire, 2007)) gender-based violence increases (Morrow & Enarson, 1996). While evacuated from their homes, women are often unsafe in public evacuation centers (Enarson, 1999) and temporary housing (Fordham, 1998). Reports of domestic violence increase (Morrow & Enarson, 1996) and as the violence increases more women seek shelter (Van Willigen, 2001) putting stress on already often strained women’s shelters. When disasters happen, the organizations that provide shelter for women in non-disaster times may, themselves be impacted (Wilson, Phillips, Neal, 1998; Houghton, 2010) or destroyed (Houghton, 2010) creating a scenario where there is increased need but decreased resources.
The reasons for the increase in domestic violence is tied to the resurgence of abuse in already abusive relationships (Wilson, Phillips, Neal, 1998), women re-entering abusive relationships after becoming homeless from the disaster (Enarson, 1999), and first time domestic violence brought on by stress from financial hardship (Ollenburger & Tobin, 1998).
Society’s pre-existing gendered division of labor is amplified post-disaster and often leaves women with a disproportional increase in work. Women are often responsible for leading the preparatory actions before a disaster happens (Brown, Jenkins, Wachtendorf, 2010) and caregiving responsibilities increase throughout the disaster (Van Willigen, 2001). Women’s social networks, more so than men’s, tend to be neighborhood-based and after a disaster, men are disproportionately hired for recovery related employment (Van Willigen, 2001), furthering the pre-existing gender pay gap.
Since women are more likely to be the main providers of domestic-centered tasks (e.g., childcare, food, cleaning) they tend to be more likely to seek out aid than men (Van Willigen, 2001). Unfortunately, many aid programs are not designed to specifically meet the needs of women (Van Willigen, 2001) or worse there may be bureaucratic barriers in place that prevent women from receiving aid.
These issues are not unique to disasters. Lack of access to women’s health, gender-based violence, and economic strain are all issues that women around the world deal with in non-disaster times, but they are exacerbated following a disaster.
We’ve actually received a few comments from people very upset that we chose to focus specifically on the needs of women in Nepal in the aftermath of this disaster, some of them very angry. I simply cannot understand those people, nor, frankly, do I want to. What I do know is that we are helping people in a major way and that’s all that really matters to me. The nattering nabobs of negativism, to borrow a phrase from Spiro Agnew, can go pound sand.