Social scientists: Women bore much of the brunt of oil spill
Women bore much of the brunt of the oil spill that ravaged Guimaras Island as some disaster response and rehabilitation programs failed to consider their specific needs, a research of social scientists showed.
In their paper "Gender Perspectives in Disaster Responses and Interventions to MT Solar I Oil Spill," University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV)-based social scientists said that while there were efforts towards gender equality, some of the programs were inappropriate in addressing specific needs especially of women during the disaster.
"Most of these projects have not fully integrated gender equality and women's empowerment concerns in the different stages of project management, implementation and monitoring..." according to the research conducted by Rosario Asong, Ebonia Seraspe, Diana Aure and Rosario Panganiban.
The result of the research has been presented in international conferences on fisheries and women and during the recent 2nd National Conference on the Solar I Oil Spill.
Around 2 million liters of bunker fuel was spilled on the waters of Guimaras after the cargo ship MT Solar I sank on August 11, 2006 due to rough seas southeast of the island. The cargo ship was chartered by Petron Corp. and was transporting the fuel from Bataan to Zamboanga.
The researches conducted the study among members of disaster response and rehabilitation agencies and residents of affected barangays in Guimaras including 203 female and 157 male victims.
Most of participants were engaged in fishing, seaweed farming, shell gathering, fish vending, fish processing livestock and poultry raising, rice farming and charcoal making.
Asong said they conducted the research because of the lack of studies on strategies on oil spill related disaster which addresses gender issues and concerns.
"Natural and human-made disasters usually hit women and children the hardest and we wanted to find out if the programs and projects in response to the disasters recognize this predicament," Asong said in a recent interview.
Asong said the the study showed that the oil spill and "gender-biased" response and rehabilitation programs reinforced the multiple burden on women.
The research showed that women victims were mostly engaged in shell gathering, fish processing, fish vending and seaweed farming and are limited to work near the shore because of their traditional roles of looking after the children, house, and gardens.
But they were active along with their family in volunteering to help contain the oil slick by using indigenous materials as dispersant.
The women were involved in putting up improvised oil spill booms and in the clean-up activities as alternate to sick/overly exhausted or absent husbands. They were also involved in the cash-for-work scheme during the clean up comprising a third of the 1,042 cleaners.
Women and children were greatly affected during the evacuation of 1,120 residents at the height of the oil spill most vulnerable to diseases caused by inadequate potable water, shelter and food, according to the study.
Women were also forced to employ as household help, farm laborers or engage in charcoal making because of the low fish catch of men after the oil spill.
But during the clean-up and rehabilitation, the women were only secondary to their husbands in terms of decision-making and allocation of assistance.
Men were designated as heads of family while the women were recruited either as substitutes for their husbands who were either incapacitated or absent.
"The payments for income loss of income were gender-biased, based on reinforcing the pre-existing patters of income," according to the study.
The average compensation given to victims range from P3,000.00 to P23,000.00. But men received an average of P13,184 while women were given an average of P11,314.
It said that most of the women gathered shells received the lowest payments after the oil spill.
"The perception remains that the women have less significant responsibilities when the work they do is less paid or not paid at all and the that women's productive activities are only supplementary to men's," the researchers said in their paper.
Some alternative livelihood projects also failed to consider the situation and needs of women from the planning up to the implementation stages.
The study noted that micro-finance projects aimed at helping the victims had meetings held between 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. when mothers and children are busy preparing meals for the family and other household chores resulting to the failure of women beneficiaries to attend the meetings.
Some projects with loan application forms also required women beneficiaries to have the consent of their husband.
The study made several recommendations for relief and rehabilitation programs and agencies in dealing with disasters.
These include the identification of specific needs and priorities of each sectoral group and to consider these in planning processes and allocation of resources; conducting an assessment of vulnerabilities in the environment and people based on age, gender and socio-economic status; and the mainstreaming of gender in all policies, strategies, structures and mechanisms.