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Beyond caring: Enabling women’s leadership in disaster risk reduction by breaking down the barrier of unpaid care work


Women are crucial and necessary leaders in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and humanitarian response. However, a key challenge to realising women’s leadership of and participation in DRR is recognising and reducing the burden of unpaid care work, and understanding the barrier that this places on women’s ability to engage as leaders and decision-makers. Released at the 2017 Global Platform for DRR in Cancun, Mexico, this ActionAid publication draws on our work around the world to understand how unpaid care work impacts women’s leadership in DRR, and how all stakeholders should empower women and communities to redress the balance and overcome the barrier of unpaid care work, enabling them to lead on DRR.

Seven specific recommendations are directed at governments, international bodies, and civil society. The recommendations advocate for unpaid care work to be recognised in the context of disasters and DRR, for service provision that helps to reduce the burden of unpaid care work, and for women to be supported to redistribute unpaid care work across their household and community, with the aim of empowering women to participate in and lead DRR.

To supplement the report, five Case Studies have been compiled to showcase how women around the world have overcome the burden of unpaid care work to lead resilience:

  • Case Study 1: A tale of two women overcoming unpaid care work and leading preparedness: Rekha Begum and Most Shirin Akhter, Bangladesh
  • Case Study 2: Sensitisation redresses unpaid care burdens to reduce disasters: Boapoka Naab, Ghana
  • Case Study 3: Working alongside men to break down the barrier of unpaid care work and build resilience: Evelesi Zulu, Malawi
  • Case Study 4: One woman’s confident advocacy inspires water resilience and reduces unpaid care burden: Constance Mushayi, Zimbabwe
  • Case Study 5: Women’s economic empowerment changing unpaid care norms and boosting resilience: Florence Nkhonjera, Malawi