By Cong B. Corrales
THE STORM surges and strong winds have long been gone but people in areas hardest hit by super typhoon Haiyan last year still continue to rebuild their shattered lives.
And women are finding it more difficult than men, burdened as they are by gender discrimination, and a host of other problems that have been magnified after the storm.
More than a hundred women survivors of typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) gathered to point this out during the international aid group Oxfam’s forum on Tuesday dubbed “Women After the Storm.”
“The struggles of those from typhoon hit areas—from poverty, poor governance and delivery of basic social services, to gender discrimination—have always been there before, and were even magnified after the typhoon,” Jing Pura, gender justice programme coordinator of Oxfam-Philippines told the PCIJ.
Derived from the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working together with partners and local communities in more than 90 countries. In the Philippines, Oxfam has been operating since 1978. It is helping at least 760,000 people affected by the storm in the provinces of Leyte, Eastern Samar, and Cebu.
Haiyan – the strongest typhoon ever recorded in recent history – killed more than 6,000 people and displaced 4.1 people, 3.7 million of whom are women and girls, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) reported.
Pura said gender inequality and discrimination are some of the underlying causes why people are still suffering nine months after the storm had passed.
“Meron kaming pagkiling sa kababaihan dahil nakikita namin na sila yung maraming dinadaanang problema at ibang sitwasyon dahil may mga inequality doon sa community. Dito sa Haiyan, yung response ng Oxfam—kasi tumutugon kami sa water, sanitation and hygiene issues, tumutugon din kami sa livelihood issues—nakita namin na hindi sila masyadong natatanong, nakokonsulta,” Pura said.
(We have a bias for women because we have seen that they are facing more problems because of the inequalities in their community; because of Haiyan, Oxfam’s response has been to help them in terms of water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. We are also helping them in their livelihood because they are not largely being consulted or asked.)
The experience of Mirasol Gayoso, a woman survivor from the fishing town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar is a stark case in point. Like her, women in their town contribute to her family’s finances by making bags and sleeping mats from indigenous hemp while their husbands fish.
“May mga organization na iba, halimbawa na kumukuha sila ng impormasyon tungkol sa mga livelihood, so mostly naka-focus sila sa mga kalalakihan. Parang nawawalan na ng time or attention ang mga babae kasi naka focus nga sa kanila. Eh, paano naman yung mga kababaihan doon napakalaking tulong din yun sa mga asawa nila,” Gayoso told PCIJ.
(There are organizations that get information about our livelihood and most of them focus on what the men are doing but they are not giving time or attention to the women. How about the women who can be of big help to their husbands?)
For Jayza dela Dia of Balanggiga town in Eastern Samar, it took 14 days for relief operations reached their town. She blames the problem to a gap in communication.
“Delayed siguro ganon tapos may information na naiparating sa mga higher (officials) na partially damaged lang yung Balangiga ang report. Pero ang katotohanan po talaga totally damaged (sic) din po kami. Kung titingnan po yung lugar namin halos walang bahay doon nakatayo or kung may roon mang nakatayo, walang bubong at sira yung mga walls,” she said.
(It could have been delayed because information reaching the higher-ups said that Balangiga [town] was only partially-damaged but in truth, there was total destruction there; almost all houses were destroyed and those left standing had had no roofs or the walls had collapsed.)
“We need to understand how women, with their families and communities, are coping and managing so that we are able to collectively re-imagine the best and most lasting ways to build back better,” Pura said.
Representatives from various national and international agencies—United Nations Population Fund, UN Women, Save the Children, Plan International, World Vision, UP Center for Women’s Studies, and Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Inc—also attended Oxfam’s forum.
Topics discussed during the forum include: rebuilding of women’s livelihoods, promoting women leadership in times of emergencies, responding to gender-based violence and reproductive health needs of women, mainstreaming gender in relocation and rehabilitation planning, and recognizing LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) rights during and after typhoon Haiyan.
“The risks women, men, girls, and boys who are affected by Yolanda are different, and this determines who survives or who will get back on their feet. Thus, gender responsive provisions should be instilled in rehabilitation and recovery programs to address overlapping issues like land, shelter, and livelihood,” said Pura adding that it is important to have a “gender lens” in rebuilding communities after calamities.