Gender Equality and Reconstruction

In May, Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office published “Guidelines for Disaster Prevention and Reconstruction from the Perspective of Gender Equality”. (Its English summary of the earlier draft is here.)

Logo for “Gender Equality Week 2003″ in Japan. It says “One red dot (:only woman in a certain group of people) is not enough!”

Your reaction to this would be “Why do we need to bring the gender equality to the reconstruction?”, and  I did share this sentiment first.

But the guideline gives some answers to this question:

 “(After the Tohoku Great Earthquake,) there were shelters which were in want of  feminine products, or lacked the enclosed space for women to change and to feed their babies.  There were also incidents in which female evacuees were automatically given the cooking and cleaning chores.”

The former happened because of the ignorance and unpreparedness. The latter is due to the  prejudice to the women and their roles which remain still strong in Japan. Some examples of their strategies:

“Increase the female staffers in disaster-prevention departments in governments.” “Work closely with the venders of emergency commodities to provide goods necessary for women.” ” Increase the support (to the women) for caring children and elderly people  during and after the evacuation.” “Increase the number of ladies-only toilets at shelters.” “Prevent the violence to women and children by increasing the security at shelters.” “Increase the female participants to the classes and meetings for the disaster prevention.” “Increase female managers at the temporary housing.”

Interestingly, these strategies shows well what are the issues of gender equity in Japan, not necessarily in disaster and emergency but in everyday life. Small negative elements you see in normal life seemed to be magnified at the time of disaster.