From our friends at
the Gender and Disaster Resilience Alliance (GDRA), some directions on how
the United States should move forward in response to the Gulf Coast oil
The GDRA offers these considerations for shaping a national response that
respects and builds on women's past experience. Much has already been
learned in the US about how the lives of women and men, boys and girls are
transformed by disasters of all kinds. The GDRA stands ready to help put this
knowledge to use through dialogue, communications networks, local subject
experts, bibliographies, case studies from past US disasters, public
awareness materials, a consultant roster, good practice guides and
1. Listen to women-seek them out, bring them together, ask for their ideas,
hear their concerns, respect difference. The expertise and experience
of women are essential as they play lead roles in the local environmental
groups now responding to the spill.
2. Communicate directly with women and with men-use media that reach
different groups of women and men of different ages in different cultural
groups, and ensure that messages reflect their everyday lives and realities.
3. Make space for women to fully and meaningfully participate -include them
in decision-making roles around response and recovery work now and in the
years and decades ahead. Seek out African American women and other women of
color from hard-hit communities that have important survival skills.
4. Support grassroots women's groups-know that much of women's work is behind
the scenes in disasters, where they play critical but readily overlooked
roles, often in local groups and networks that are lifelines for women
in crisis and for women's solidarity and resilience.
5. Target economic relief to women, too-whether in jobs related to fishing or
tourism or both, women's incomes are jeopardized, and they will have to work
harder and longer when family income drops.
6. Intervene now to reduce violence against women-help women's groups
respond, educate the public about the risk, give women meaningful prevention
guidance and resources for self-protection, now. Learn from previous
interventions against gender-based violence in disasters, including the Exxon
7. Protect women's reproductive health, and men's-minimize exposure to toxics
with indeterminate effects on fetal and maternal health, plan now to monitor
and evaluate possible effects and mitigate these to the extent possible.
8. Support girls-target teens of both sexes in clean-up jobs, with equitable
payment and responsibilities, protect their work and education options in
cash-strapped families, develop and support their leadership and
communication skills as the spill's effects become known in the long term.
9. Care for the care givers-women (and men, in growing numbers) provide
essential emotional and hands-on care for others, often at their own expense.
They need child care, respite care, economic support and mental health
outreach that recognizes the socioemotional effects of the spill now and in the
10. Work with men and men's groups -ask how they are coping as sons,
partners, husbands, and fathers, determine what can be through men's groups
now to minimize interpersonal conflict, violence, and self-destructive uses
of drugs and/or alcohol, as well as to protect their livelihoods.
11. Help women help one another-support learning exchanges among women to
build on what they have learned in past US disasters, environmental or
technological; enable witnessing projects planned and implemented by women
leaders with first-hand experience.
12. Focus on strength-learn from the achievements of local women who
push back against environmental groups dominated by men and corporations.
Frame recovery around the regional work of women-led organizations active in
the areas of health, housing, labor, youth, racism, economic and
environmental sustainability and social justice, as well as gender
13. Respect the human right of self-determination for women and men, boys and
girls equally-ask, listen and respond in ways that help all those affected
achieve the futures they envision.
14. Value culture-the women and men of this region have unique cultural roots
which can and should determine how long-term recovery is planned and
implemented, especially in communities at risk of losing land, livelihood,
people, language and legacy.
15. Partner with women formally and informally-with deep roots in affected
communities, grassroots women and women's groups are not "disaster
tourists," and not going away. They are your partners for the long haul.
16. Document difference-keep good records by age and sex, ask "where are
the women?", monitor the effects on both women and men, and how they
cope with the short and long-term effects of the spill.
17. Avoid the language of "special populations" - look at the
intersections in everyone's lives of capacity and strength, and focus on how
gender, class, ethnicity, age and other factors interact in our
18. Ask for women's feedback-bring women and men together, early and often,
to monitor the effectiveness of short-and long-term recovery
19. Compensate women's time and expertise-include them as relief and recovery
experts, as community monitors of recovery programs, as local consultants
with critically needed local expertise.
20. Hold corporate decision-makers responsible-ensure that relief checks or
other payments are shared by women and men, that the resources offered are
those that women, as well as men, consider essential for Coastal families
striving to reclaim and rebuild their lives.
21. Take a social justice human rights approach-listen to women leaders with
generations of experience and insight into what can and must be done for
Coastal communities to recover sustainably and for the prevention of future