Risk-based financing for women during disasters
Filipino communities are no strangers to the impact of disasters: families displaced or forced to flee their homes; livelihood affected or destroyed; access to basic needs disrupted. During these times, women take the brunt in meeting the survival needs of their families — from reestablishing access to basic needs and rebuilding their households or finding temporary shelter, to securing relief from authorities. Their struggles are often aggravated by a lack of funding or immediate financial assistance that delays efforts to rebuild their lives.
Harnessing women’s agency, especially in times of disasters, will only be possible if proactive mechanisms are in place to allow them to plan and prepare ahead. A study conducted by Start Network, titled “Mainstreaming Gender and Disaster Risk Financing,” shows that more resources are needed to execute early actions. Women’s key concern is that they cannot run preparedness measures without any savings or standby funds. They also expressed concern over their inability to access social protection programs such as government pensions, cash transfers, and other seasonal cash assistance at the time they need it most.
Such was the case for a 76-year-old woman living in a coastal community in Eastern Samar, who has weathered strong typhoons, including Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in 2013. “[We] don’t have enough money to buy our supplies. If a typhoon hits and we haven’t received the payout, I have to ask the convenience stores in our neighborhood to loan us some food that we can bring to the evacuation center.” For her and millions of women exposed to disaster risks, post-disasters struggle might have been prevented or lessened if assistance were systematically planned according to projected risks in communities.
This explains why a consortium of civil society organizations, humanitarian groups, and grassroots communities, coordinated by Start Network, have been pushing for the mainstreaming of disaster risk financing that capitalizes on science-based risk modeling, contingency planning, and pre-agreed financing to prompt humanitarian funding whenever a crisis hits. Disaster risk financing works to improve the timing, coverage, and design of humanitarian actions based on the needs of communities, and not on the budget. Through this, humanitarian organizations are able to plan and preposition funding three days before the onset of the typhoon, while implementing continuous preparedness activities to build the capacity of communities to respond to disasters.
This is especially important for women-led households. Women are aware of the risks in their respective communities, but what bars them from taking action is the lack of funds. One of the most crucial benefits of anticipatory financing is how it can shorten the period before humanitarian and government agencies could distribute early assistance, such as cash grants. Dialogues with communities have proven that multipurpose cash grants are the most preferred form of early relief because they allow individuals and families to focus on their priorities, whether it be food and hygiene items, shelter repair, or the reestablishment of income sources. Risk-based financing goes beyond protection. It also enables women and other vulnerable sectors to act not just as beneficiaries, but as active partners in local interventions.
This enables women and other grassroots communities to be decision-makers through anticipatory financing. Their innate capacity as homemakers can be maximized for efforts to enhance living conditions in evacuation centers. Their management capacity can also be utilized by helping them take active roles as advisors for shelter protection and leaders of information dissemination. Early deployment of funds can help enhance evacuation site management practices as well, as they can be used to establish water, sanitation, and hygiene stations fit for women and children’s needs, and provide safe spaces for women and children that, in turn, can prevent gender-based violence and abuses that are commonly not given enough attention during disasters.
Despite the importance of women’s voices in disaster response, most protection interventions are focused on responding in post-disaster context. This is why we must put heavy emphasis on explicit protection interventions and anticipatory actions. Anticipatory actions, such as disaster risk financing, will help secure prevention and protection activities, where people’s right to a dignified life will continue to be upheld and advanced, even in times of crisis, especially for the commonly disenfranchised sectors of the community.
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Christelle Juin Ancha is gender specialist of CARE Philippines, part of a consortium under Start Network which pushes for the protection of communities through disaster risk financing.
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