The South Asia Women’s Resilience Index: Examining the role of women in preparing for and recovering from disasters

The Economist Intelligence Unit


This report discusses the findings of the South Asia Women’s Resilience Index (WRI).The WRI draws upon a range of indicators in four categories—Economic, Infrastructure, Institutional and Social—to assess the capacity of a country to adapt to and recover from quick onset events that fall outside the range of those that are normal or anticipated.

Key findings:

  • Most South Asian countries fare poorly in considering women in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience building. Although the WRI is scaled from 1-100, none of the seven developing South Asian countries in the Index scores above 46.4; Japan (included as a developed-country benchmark) scores 80.6. Given the correlation between economic development and a country’s ability to invest in DRR capacity, it is not realistic for countries in South Asia to reach Japan’s level in the near future, but this does not mean that significant progress cannot be made in many areas.
  • Gaps between policy and practice undermine women’s disaster resilience across South Asia. Though Pakistan’s 2014 National Policy Guidelines are commendable, they are yet to be implemented in practice. A similar gap between policy and practice is evident in other countries in the index, and for a variety of issues beyond gender equality.
  • A vicious circle of vulnerability and disempowerment means women’s capacity to build resilience is not being realised. Women in South Asia face a number of sociocultural and economic barriers to helping plan for disasters, mitigate their impact, lead recovery and build resilience. These range from lower participation in education and decision-making, to practical issues regarding access to finance and limited mobility. This means that their perspectives are not always incorporated into governments’ disaster management strategies, and that resulting response and reconstruction efforts tend to overlook the specific vulnerabilities and needs of women when disasters strike.
  • Recommendations:

  • Empower women to build disaster resilience at the community level. Countries in South Asia need to improve the “bargaining power” of women, through economic empowerment, by improving access to finance and by involving them in local planning as decision-makers.
  • Emphasise women’s capacity for leadership—and their right to be included in DRR activities—as much as reducing their vulnerability. The emphasis in current policy planning is very much on reducing vulnerabilities, while the leadership skills that women have are largely untapped. Rather than simply being viewed as a group to whom services need to be delivered, women should have the right to be included in, and take leadership of, DRR planning and resilience building.
  • Improve monitoring and evaluation, and introduce accountability for gender-specific DRR targets. Current data for the monitoring and evaluation of DRR are inadequate to track and measure progress on gender equality.
  • Better coordinate and decentralise disaster planning. DRR has been defined as “everybody’s business”, including national, local urban and rural governments, the private sector, scientific, technical and academic organisations, civil society, the media, communities, and households and individuals. This makes coordination a challenge and has a bearing on the implementation of DRR policies in South Asia and on related provisions for gender. Implementation has been a challenge in transforming policy into practice, particularly with respect to decentralisation. Despite evidence of sub-national provisions and policies, issues of effectiveness and capacity at lower levels of governance have hindered progress.
  • Match DRR and resilience building with broader efforts for poverty reduction and sustainable development. Building resilience in communities is about providing women in South Asia with the opportunity to enhance their capacity to cope and recover in the face of quick-onset disasters; it might not lead to a material improvement in their lives. Gender-sensitive DRR policy therefore needs to take place alongside continued poverty reduction efforts to effect transformative change.
  • Source

    EIU (2014). The South Asia Women’s Resilience Index: Examining the role of women in preparing for and recovering from disasters. Economist Intelligence Unit.