Women set to gain more say after quake

Tri Yasmawati never thought she would be sitting in the same class as her son, a second grader in an elementary school in the Lubuk Kilangan subdistrict of Padang, West Sumatra.

But when the 9-year-old refused to go to school out of fear another earthquake would hit, like the one that damaged his house on Sept. 30, 2009, Tri accompanied him to classes.

“I was traumatized by the quake but I had to deal with my children’s trauma as well,” she said.
Tri, however, counts herself lucky when compared to many other women in the region.

She was among the few who recognized disadvantaged groups of people, including women, were greatly impacted by the quake. The member of LP2M, an NGO in Padang focusing on community analyses and empowerment, received training on gender sensitive post-disaster management late

February. More than a dozen other women joined the program.

During the training, they shared their experiences in coping with the post-quake condition. Many said they had more domestic responsibilities. Other lamented the poor access to health facilities, clean water or other resources.

Desi Mufianti, a program coordinator at LP2M, said that most relief donations that quake survivors had received in the immediate aftermath of the disaster did not reflect the needs of women. This includes basic necessities and housing facilities.

“People often don’t prioritize gender issues when it comes to post-disaster management,” she added.

As the rest of the world celebrates International Women’s Day, which falls Monday, female members of LP2M are set to make a mark.

They are on a mission to get their voices heard in decision-making processes in post-disaster management.

“If women want their voices heard, they have to better understand the structure of decision making,” Dwi Bertha, the organization’s executive director, said.

“That’s why we encourage our members to take strategic positions in their respective communities.”
Tri currently holds a structural position in her community.

Another LP2M member is a neighborhood leader and one has signed up as a community leader candidate.

But they are planning to stretch their influence further by taking part in society groups.

The society groups, which will represent 20 to 25 families, will be responsible for the reconstruction fund of houses. The West Sumatra regional government is allocating a maximum of Rp 15 million (US$1,500) per unit to restore severely damaged houses, Rp 10 million per unit for medium damage and Rp 1 million per unit for light damage. The money will be distributed through the society groups.

Tri and 150 other women are now set to rally on International Women’s Day to urge the regional government to ensure that women are represented in society groups.