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How to support women and girls in disaster recovery

By Brenda Berkman, cross-posted from

People are the same the world over. We see a disaster happening and we want to help. Often that impulse to help is short-term and a Band-Aid approach – we hold a bake sale to raise donations; we load a vehicle with canned goods and deliver it to a church for distribution to people displaced from their homes; we collect blankets and warm clothing for those who are suffering. All are worthy efforts in the early days after a disaster when the need to provide food and shelter for disaster survivors is immediate and paramount.

But how many of us know of other kinds of disaster responses? Of the spike in domestic abuse, rape and other incidents of male violence occurring in the Gulf region post-Katrina? That sex traffickers target Filipino children in areas affected by natural disasters? That Japanese families were split up when wives moved themselves and their children out of radiation-impacted areas near Fukushima, leaving their husbands behind?

It remains to be seen how well the United States planned for and responded to women and girls’ needs in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. But one thing all Americans – women and men – can be conscious of and play an active role in, is insuring that the voices, needs and talents of women and girls are not ignored or marginalized in the recovery phase of Sandy.

It is not gender that puts women and girls at ...