Why FBB Chose the Women’s Foundation of Nepal to Fund

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.

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  • themadtapper

    It’s really not a hard concept. There are TONS of groups giving general aid. So when you see that there is a demographic that has a disproportionately large need for aid (in this case women) and there is a lack of groups giving targeted aid for that demographic, then stepping in and filling that much needed role is commendable, not condemnable. It’s funny because the ones sending complaints, trying desperately to find misandry where there is none, are probably the same folks who accuse feminists of trying to find misogyny where there is none. Such projection is completely unsurprising though.

    On a completely unrelated note, Firefox does not recognize “misandry” as a word. Wonder if the MRAs have ever hounded Mozilla over their obviously rad-fem-biased spellchecker.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    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.

    I would assume that they think that,

    A) men and women being treated absolutely equally across all measures around the world before natural disaster strikes,

    B) they have of course found themselves to be absolutely equal in need after natural disaster strikes, and therefore

    C) opting to focus aid on one sex or the other is just plain ol’ sexism.

    C being arguably true if A and B are also true. However, A and B are, unarguably, bullshit.

  • dingojack

    Sorry – Is anyone actually complaining about this? Seriously?

    It just seems like giving money to those who are the most disadvantaged isn’t an act of discrimination, but one of discernment*. It’s a complete no-brainer to me (but *meh* what do I know?)



    * by the former I mean unfairly/unjustly giving resources to one class rather than another for trivial or arbitrary reasons; the latter is more about distributing finite resources, preferentially, to those that are either have the greatest in need or are most urgently in need of aid.

  • abb3w

    But surely it is the duty of the FBB to restore the status quo, rather than seek to create a more equitable world, especially by targeting a group whose members while generally tending to be in more need may not be universally so?

    (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

  • leni

    What’s particularly stupid about that whine is that women, being primary caretakers of the family, will use whatever aid they receive to the direct benefit of their husbands and children.

    Helping the caretakers of society is helping everyone.

  • Lady Mondegreen

    Sorry – Is anyone actually complaining about this? Seriously?

    Of course they are. The “Men’s Rights Movement” has a strong atheist contingent.

    And any men’s righster will tell you that men are the oppressed gender and targeting women for aid is misandry.

  • David C Brayton

    Many years ago, I volunteered for the American Red Cross’s disaster response team. The biggest disaster I worked was the response to the Rodney King riots.

    I never considered, until reading this excerpt, that women would be particularly disadvantaged in a disaster.

    I don’t know whether to be happy or sad now that I understand the world better.

  • funknjunk

    Thanks so much for organizing aid and for posting this. My partner and I trekked the Annapurna region for 2 weeks in November. It was, of course, an amazing experience, made more amazing by the connection we made with our guide and his family — they graciously invited us to a family wedding when we returned to Kathmandu from the trek. We still have not heard news about our guide and his family, but are hopeful. We’ve finally been able to contact the owner of the trekking company (Adventure Thamserku) through FaceBook, and he is also organizing relief efforts through his children’s educational organization, Classroom in the Clouds. I didn’t link to it here out of respect for the post and the organization already suggested by Ed, but you can find it if you’re inspired, and the donate page is “Nepal Earthquake CitC Recovery Appeal” … Thanks all.