Women and Floods in Bangladesh

November 1996 (VOL. 14, NO. 3)

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This paper examines the consequences of a flood disaster on rural women in northern Bangladesh. Based on fieldwork, it is argued that floods affect rural women more adversely than rural men. Floods destroy the household resources undermining the economic well-being of rural women. Researchers and authorities in charge of rehabilitation have not paid enough attention to the uneven impact of flood disasters on gender groups. Women are rarely involved in the decision-making process regarding disaster response. The lack of participation of women in particular and the local community in general in the planning and execution of counterdisaster plans insure that such issues are not noticed. Bureaucratic disaster respondents to be short term in its scope and fails to link disaster response and rehabilitation with development activities. Various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in rural Bangladesh seem to have closer ties with the local community and a better understanding of the linkage between rehabilitation and development. However, because of the limited scope of their operations and constraints of resources, the influence of these NGOs are not sustainable. The rural women cope on their own. The status quo ante is achieved, a continuation of impoverished existence which makes the vulnerable to the next flooding or other such disasters. Successful counterdisaster strategies need to take gender dimension into account and link crisis response and rehabilitation strategies to development initiatives. This would entail participation of women in counterdisaster plans and assuring the economic well-being of rural women.