We are conducting a rapid needs assessment to inform the repair and reconstruction of family homes, but we are finding it hard to find any female family members, let alone speak with them. How can we make sure their voices are heard?
Thank you for your question. It is always worth spending the time seeking the views of different family members to make sure that the support you offer does not disadvantage anyone.
If you are not seeing women walking freely in the streets it may be because, in these communities, they spend the majority of their time in the home. While this makes them difficult to access it also makes them key informants concerning how the home is used, how it is laid out, what it should be made of and how it can be maintained. Those who spend most of their time in the home will know how much space is needed for domestic activities, what is culturally acceptable and possibly the traditions behind the design of those spaces.
Check with local community mobilisers and find out who is allowed to approach women for their views. Community health visitors are another good source for these kind of social customs, if these are active in your area. Make sure you speak with a range of different female stakeholders, for example single women, married women, elderly women, mothers and children.
It may be that men who are not locally known to the families are not permitted to speak to women, so you will therefore need local staff on your team. Or it may be that men who are not family relatives are not permitted to speak to women so you will therefore need to have women on your team. You may need team members who are both local and female. Make sure that these team members are qualified for the role you are asking them to perform, and that they gain the respect of the families and their colleagues trust their judgement. Additional shelter training or assessment training may be required. When you need information fast it can be tempting to pull in team members just because of their gender, but this can set them up to fail.
Another reason for not seeing women around is that they may have left the houses in the wake of the disaster. They may be being hosted by relatives elsewhere, particularly if the damage to houses is extensive or in the season is about to change to more extreme weather. If this is the case then you may not be able to speak to as many people as you had hoped, but you could include questions in your assessment that focus on the views of certain groups, rather than individuals, to gain a broader understanding.
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