Submitted by Alison Sneddon, Practical Action
27 Jan 2022

How can we make disaster risk financing more gender inclusive?

People living in an area affected by a disaster will experience it differently, depending on their individual vulnerabilities and capacities. These vulnerabilities - especially intersecting vulnerabilities - are often invisible in data, and therefore in policy and practice. When policy and practice don’t account for this diversity and complexity, the impacts of disasters exacerbate existing inequalities, as people who are already vulnerable are left further and further behind.

Practical Action Consulting worked with the Start Network in 2021 to conduct a study examining gender inclusion in disaster risk financing, and the anticipatory action this financing facilitates. The study aimed to answer two key questions.

  • Which points in the development and implementation of a disaster risk financing system are likely to have the most significant gendered aspects?
  • How can the Start Network’s disaster risk financing ‘building blocks’ be enhanced to fully mainstream gender?

We used our 'missing voices' approach (see the image below) to ensure we heard from those who are most marginalized in mainstream datasets. We focused on three key areas: risk analytics, contingency planning, and financing.

Examples of missing voices selected for case studies in Bangladesh and the Philippines. Source: Start Network.

Risk analytics: understanding how gender and intersecting vulnerabilities shape risk profiles

Looking firstly at risk profiles, we found that existing inequalities directly affect the risk profiles of individuals and the impacts they experience. People who are vulnerable and marginalized (e.g., women and minority gender groups), and especially those with intersecting vulnerabilities, are often affected earlier and more severely by a disaster than those in a community who are not marginalized.

Secondly, vulnerable groups have different needs from disaster risk financing programming. They may need more time, resources and support to take effective early actions that reduce the impacts of hazards.

Developing a system which includes multiple triggers and thresholds can support the effective inclusion of women and other marginalized gender groups and vulnerable populations. This could involve identifying other indicators of risk relevant to these groups, which may be apparent before an agreed forecast threshold, and identifying low and no-cost actions or releasing funds for specific, targeted actions commensurate with the lower levels of certainty.

Finally, we need qualitative approaches to data collection to provide insight into the complex nature of risk, and to appropriately target early action. In analysing differential risk, quantitative data has a lot of serious limitations. It is rarely disaggregated, and even disaggregated data typically excludes marginalized individuals and intersecting vulnerabilities.

It’s really important for qualitative data to be collected and used alongside qualitative data, so that we can understand the different ways in which risk is perceived and experienced.

Contingency planning: gender-appropriate communication and implementation plans are key  

Access to information on disaster risk is heavily constrained by gender inequalities: gaps in education, literacy and access to information services affect how women and marginalized gender groups can access information about forecasts, warnings, and preparedness and relief services. There can also be differences in access to public space, and gendered differences in labour schedules and communication preferences.

Secondly, we found that the needs relating to disaster risk preparedness and response are gendered. Different groups may struggle with mobility and therefore access to, or use of, evacuation routes; or they may have additional care needs, such as ante- or post-natal care, along with different safety concerns such as gender-based violence.

Timely and gender-appropriate communication and dissemination of risk knowledge is critical for the response capabilities of vulnerable groups. As well as dissemination methods, contingency planning needs to consider the different information needs that people with specific vulnerabilities have. For example, we spoke to an adolescent girl in Bangladesh who told us how important it was for her to receive information about the measures in place to keep her safe and how she could access relief.

Contingency plans should include early and anticipatory actions to address different gendered needs in preparing for and responding to disaster events. These needs will vary depending on the hazard type, as well as the social and cultural context, but may include: evaluating the accessibility and safety of evacuation routes and temporary shelters; the provision of ante- and post-natal care; systems to prevent and respond to gender-based violence; access to medicines; and the size and contents of relief packages.

Contingency plans should also assess how far disaster risk financing for livelihood support works for people of different genders, and ensure different activities and sources of income are included where there are gendered patterns of income generation.

To do that, we need to involve women and marginalized gender groups and their representative organizations in the design and evaluation of contingency plans. Women and marginalized gender groups contribute to preparedness and resilience with different knowledge, skills, experience and coping strategies. When community and intermediary organizations participate in contingency planning, it can help to identify specific actions relevant to different marginalized and vulnerable groups, and at different timescales. This strengthens the system with existing knowledge and improves the effectiveness of disaster risk financing and anticipatory actions.

Financing: preposition resources based on a full understanding of different needs

We need resources to identify who has different needs and what they are. This includes focusing on locally led anticipatory action, and engaging with organizations and networks based in affected communities, as these have the experience and expertise to understand these needs and how to address them.

The process of engaging consultatively and collaboratively with women and marginalized gender groups to understand these needs requires appropriate time and financial support, as well as investment in organizational capacity, whether that is training for staff, recruitment of people with gender expertise, or engagement with intermediary groups.

Secondly, disaster risk financing systems can critically assess existing social protection systems and services. This can help us to identify any gaps, both in the people who are eligible and the costs they are able to cover, so that anticipatory financing can effectively support and complement these systems.

And finally, it’s vital to incorporate participatory and inclusive feedback loops into disaster risk financing to ensure that financing provisions, mechanisms and processes are effectively meeting different needs. These feedback loops can be administered through representative intermediary organizations to actively include input from marginalized and vulnerable groups in ways which are appropriate and accessible.


The full report on gender-inclusive disaster risk financing can be accessed here, and the executive summary is available here.

This blog was written by Alison Sneddon, disaster risk reduction advisor at Practical Action, with input from Susan Njambi-Szlapka, research and learning advisor at the Start Network.