South Asia has been affected by a number of disasters in recent years—natural, economic and conflict-related—drawing attention to the region’s vulnerability and pushing disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience up development and policymaking agendas. The role of women in DRR and building resilient communities has received less attention than it deserves. Among other reasons, limited mobility and the socially assigned role of women as carers have rendered them more vulnerable than men when disaster strikes. Yet evidence also points towards the ability of women to lead the preparation and response to disruptive events. The intimate “front-line” knowledge that women have of their local environment suggests enormous capacity for them to be transformational agents in community disaster planning and preparedness, and to play a significant role in bolstering resilience. Women in South Asia face a number of socio-cultural and economic barriers to exercising this potential.
As discussions continue towards updating the landmark Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA)—an international ten-year plan, agreed in 2005, to build the resilience of communities to disasters—the need both to understand women’s vulnerability and realise their potential for leadership in building resilience is growing acute. With that in mind, ActionAid Australia, with the support of ActionAid’s International Humanitarian Action and Resilience Team (IHART) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, commissioned the EIU to build a Women’s Resilience Index (WRI): a benchmark tool that measures and compares the disaster resilience of South Asian countries in the event of a disruptive shock, with a specific focus on the experiences of women in the region.
The WRI draws upon a range of indicators in four categories—Economic, Infrastructure, Institutional and Social—to assess the capacity of a country to adapt to and recover from quickonset events that fall outside the range of those that are normal or anticipated.
Developed with inputs from an expert panel and an advisory group, approximately 40% of the 68 indicators in the WRI data are disaggregated by sex or are sensitive to women, and reflect the different requirements of women in preparing for, mitigating and recovering from a shock.