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News from the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster

GDN has a sister organisation which focuses on building the research evidence base for gender and disaster: the Centre for Gender and Disaster at the Institute for Risk and Disaster Recovery (IRDR) at UCL in London.

Big news from the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster - An important new grant

Our sister centre: the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster is leading an innovative new project which starts today. It is called GRRIPP - Gender Responsive Resilience & Intersectionality in Policy and Practice – Networking Plus Partnering for Resilience and it is funded by the UKRI Collective Fund. GRRIPP is a new global network which will disrupt conventional development thinking around “gender” in crisis contexts and - based on decolonial approaches, indigenous knowledge and grassroots experiences - it will offer new ways of thinking about gender equality and inclusion in disasters and conflict.
GRRIPP is a collaboration between UK academics and three regions: Africa - Coordinated in Durban, South Africa; LAC - Coordinated in Lima, Peru; and South Asia - Coordinated in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dr Mahbuba Nasreen, who coordinates the Bangladesh GDN Hub, and Dr Kylah Forbes-Biggs, who coordinates the GDN Africa Hub, are both part of the GRRIPP team. We will be reaching out to all our Hubs and all our members to invite them to get involved in what we do. We have not planned everything out because our activities will be generated from the regions themselves and their selection of what are the key issues to focus on.
1 November 2019 is Day 1 of GRRIPP and we hope to reach out widely in the 4 years of the project to connect to academics, researchers, students, practitioners, government representatives at all scales, and grassroots groups. GDN and the Centre for Gender and Disaster are very closely linked so look out for more information as the project unfolds and please get in touch with us if you have ideas to share or would just like to be more closely connected. You can email any of these addresses:
m.fordham@ucl.ac.uk | p.yadav@ucl.ac.uk | irdr_cgd@ucl.ac.uk

Twitter @GRRIPP

We are grateful to the ESRC for providing funding.

New London evening seminars from the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster

On Wednesday 27th February 2019, the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster will have the second of its monthly evening seminars (on the last Wednesday of the month) at UCL in London.

Hanna Ketola of Kings College London will speak on: ‘Withdrawing from Politics? Gender, agency and women ex-fighters in Nepal’

Hanna's talk explores subjectivities of women who fought in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Nepal, and the subsequent insights this provides for theorising agency in post-conflict contexts. It examines “withdrawing from politics”, a dynamic whereby women ex-fighters move away from the public sphere and collective mobilisation and rearticulates this withdrawing as a location of political agency. Through engaging with the narratives of ex-fighters, Hanna problematises the figure of the resistant female agent that haunts the otherwise nuanced feminist analysis of post-conflict agency.

Once again we will livestream via Twitter @ucl_gd

30th January 2019

London evening seminars from the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster

On Wednesday 30th January 2019, the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster kicked off the first of a series of monthly evening seminars (the last Wednesday of the month) at UCL in London.

Our guest speaker was JC Gaillard with a presentation to stimulate discussion: Studying gender in disaster: how far have we got? JC discussed how much the study of gender in disaster has progressed over the past 40 years. He argued that, in many ways, we are still reproducing a number of biases that were criticised in the 1970s, hence often pursuing, often unconsciously, an agenda that primarily serves Western researchers at the detriment of those who are most often affected by disasters in the rest of the world.

This link will take you to the livestream of the event: https://twitter.com/UCL_GD/status/1090672179497308160

All seminars run from 18:00 pm - 19:30 in the same UCL location: Room 106 Gordon House, Gordon Street: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/gordon-house-106
Contact Maureen Fordham or Punam Yadav for more details.

Other Wednesday dates for your diary in the same location are:
27 February 2019
27 March 2019
24 April 2019
29 May 2019
26 June 2019

On November 20th 2018, the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster hosted the IRDR Network Roundtable Dinner in the Haldane Room at University College London. Our Guest Speaker was Colette Fearon, Oxfam's Director of Humanitarian Programmes and the subject was 'gender rights'. Colette outlined the many advantages that came from taking a feminist stance in programming. In particular, because everyone seemed to have an opinion on it, it was a useful mechanism to get people engaged in thinking about gender.

"We believe that transforming gender and power relations, and the structures, norms and values that underpin them, is critical to ending poverty and challenging inequality. We believe that women taking control and taking collective action are the most important driver of sustained improvements in women's rights, and are a powerful force to end poverty not only for women and girls, but for others too."

The evening also included the annual prize giving for this year's graduates from IRDR programmes

28 June 2018, Women’s Economic Empowerment in Post-Disaster Reconstruction: A Study of Tohoku. Download the blog here

Blog post #1

by Dr Punam Yadav, Research Fellow, IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster and Professor Maureen Fordham, Director, IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster

The IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster hosted its first seminar event on 28th June 2018. The event was organised in collaboration with DAIWA Anglo-Japanese Foundation. The event was chaired by the Director of the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster Professor Maureen Fordham and there were two invited speakers, Asaka Osaki, Visiting Professor from Kwansei Gakuin University and Daniel Morchain, Senior Advisor on Resilience and Climate Adaptation from OXFAM, and the discussant for the evening, Dr Punam Yadav, Research Fellow from the Centre for Gender and Disaster.

The event focused on Women’s Economic Empowerment in post-2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan. Giving a brief introduction to the context, Professor Fordham said, “women are typically depicted vulnerable” and their agency is completely ignored, which is problematic and misleading. Firstly, women are not a homogeneous category and secondly, they are impacted differently, and play different roles in post disaster situations. Therefore, the diversity of their experiences and their agency need to be recognised for any post disaster reconstruction and recovery.

Visiting Professor Osaki talked about the gendered impacts of the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku and shared her experience of working with women in Tohoku on a women’s economic empowerment project funded by OXFAM Japan. She talked about a three-step approach for women’s economic empowerment which focussed on building self-confidence, developing critical thinking skills and providing training on entrepreneurial skills. She said the intervention was very successful as women, when they got together as a group, realised that they are not the only ones who suffered but it was the experiences of everybody in that community. They took part in trainings and started their own businesses and since then their lives have completely transformed. Professor Osaki emphasized that gender should be at the core of post-disaster reconstructive as it is an opportunity to transform the society impacted by disaster.

Daniel Morchain, Senior Advisor from OXFAM, gave a very engaging presentation on the assumptions around women, gender and vulnerability. He talked about how women are seen as vulnerable without taking into consideration other intersecting identities such as age, education, ethnicity, economic status, religion and so on. He said, vulnerability is not – or should not be – attached to the gender of a person but there are many intersecting identities/factors that put them into vulnerable situations. He also talked about another common assumption about women as victims. Women are not always the victims, but they are also agents of change so what we need to do in post-disaster situations is to create enabling environments for them to exercise their agency. He also talked about another assumption where gender relations are static. However, that’s not true. Gender relations change depending on the context and likewise, the relations in households. Lastly, he talked about another important assumption, that ‘we know what people want’. He said these assumptions are misleading. He emphasized the importance in needs assessments of understanding which needs to consider, not only present needs but also future aspirations.

Dr Yadav in her discussant’s comment added that local skills and capacities are not taken into consideration even by those who talk about agency. The recognition of what they already have and what they are capable of doing are equally important for the transformation of society coming out of disaster. She also added that vulnerability is not static. It changes over time and with the changing context. Dr Yadav shared some of her work on Nepal where conflict and recent natural hazards have pushed women to do things that they had never done before. However, despite their vulnerabilities in roles, they have transformed their lives and these transformations in small spaces are now challenging the whole notion of womanhood and leading to transformation of society. She also problematised the notion of empowerment, how empowerment is understood as something that is ‘given to you’ by someone who is already empowered, which is not true. Empowerment is not about giving power to somebody, but it is about creating a necessary environment which allows them to exercise their agency. It is also about recognizing what they already have, which may not fit with or could be different from top-down forms of empowerment.

There were some great questions from the audience. They were keen on knowing whether there had been resistances and backlash to these programmes. Whether there needs to be a disaster before we have the opportunity for change. Also, in understanding what these women’s economic programme will mean in the wider Japanese context. Will they lead to some form of wider societal change? Finally, the Director of IRDR, Professor Peter Sammonds, was interested in hearing about considerations beyond this specific project which considered the complexity of the ‘totality of the gender dimension’.



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Centre Activities in December 2018

Maureen Fordham and Punam Yadav joined colleagues to kick off a new project: Rohingya Journeys of Violence and Resilience in Bangladesh and its Neighbours: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (British Academy Award Reference: SDP2\100094)

Centre Activities in November 2018

Maureen Fordham and Punam Yadav presented papers at the 8TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON BUILDING RESILIENCE in Lisbon, Portugal.


Punam Yadav gave a guest lecture: Gender, Displacement and Health, Urban Health Module at Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, 14 November 2018.

Centre Activities in October 2018

Maureen Fordham was invited to participate in a GCRF-UNDP Workshop in New York City on Conflict, Climate Change and Disruptions in Food and Water Systems, jointly led by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Centre Activities in September 2018

Maureen Fordham was invited to present a paper at a conference on child vulnerability in the aftermath of natural disasters organized by the University of Essex at the British Academy, London.


Maureen Fordham also contributed to the Summer School 2018: Gender, Disasters and Climate Risk, Lund University, Sweden.

Centre Activities in August 2018

Punam Yadav and Maureen Fordham were invited participants at Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism Roundtable in Delhi, India.

Centre Activities in July 2018

Punam Yadav: Conference paper: Transforming Effects of War on Women, 25th IPSA World Congress of Political Science, Brisbane, Australia, 21-25 July 2018.

Centre Activities in June 2018

Maureen Fordham and Punam Yadav: DAIWA Foundation & IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster joint seminar: 'Women’s Economic Empowerment in Post-Disaster Reconstruction: A Study of Tohoku', 28 June 2018.

Centre Activities in May 2018

Punam Yadav: Invited panel discussion speaker, on progress made on SDG goal 5 on Gender Equality, Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, 16 May 2018.

Centre Activities in April 2018

Punam Yadav: Roundtable discussion 'Global IR: Rules of Power and Power of Rules - young women's voices', International Studies Association Convention, San Francisco, 4-7 April 2018.


Punam Yadav: Conference paper: Women, Peace and Security in Nepal, Durham University, 16-17 April 2018.


Maureen Fordham, Keynote presentation at the Diversity in DIsaster Conference, Melbourne, 17-18 April 2018


Maureen Fordham, Chairing 'The Lived Experience of Women in Roman Cumbria and Beyond' Conference, Senhouse Roman Museum, Maryport, Cumbria, 28 April 2018.

Centre Activities in March 2018

Maureen Fordham presentation to the UK funding councils' (NERC, ESRC, AHRC) workshop for ‘GCRF Building Resilience to natural and man-made environmental Hazards in developing countries’ awards holders, 9th March, Wellcome Trust in London.


Punam Yadav: Guest lecture 'Culture and Gender in Disasters, Conflict, and Humanitarian Crises', to Undergraduate and Postgraduate students at St. Georges College, 18 March 2018


Punam Yadav: Invited speaker to Frankfurt Nepali Society, Germany, 20 March 2018.