Online event: Women in faith-based disaster response to the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes

Kamila Szczepanska's picture

Dear H-Japan Members,

Many apologies for cross-posting.

The Centre for East Asian Studies (CEAS, UTU) warmly invites you to the following online event:

13.12.2021 (Monday), 10:00-11:15 EET (Helsinki time) / 17:00-18:15 JST

Dr Paola Cavaliere (Associate Professor of Japanese Studies, Osaka University, School of Human Sciences): “Women in faith-based disaster response to the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes” 

Abstract: Disaster risk reduction (DRR) global initiatives as well as the Japan’s Basic Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction include gender-sensitive and gender-inclusive approaches into their disaster management strategies. Such DRR guidelines recognise that in the context of persistent social norms that assign women responsibility for the domestic domain, they are primarily responsible of family caregiving and safety of domesticity. Such role requires a tremendous amount of physical and emotional strength in case of disaster in that it implies the capacity of coping with the event, re-establishing a routine and reconstructing the normality of daily living activities in the post-disaster phase. Drawing upon qualitative data (2016~2020) of religious-based post-disaster relief and support activities performed by women of Sōka Gakkai and GLA (God Light Association) in the aftermath of the two Kumamoto earthquakes in April 2016, this study shows that the persistent gender blindness within Japanese institutional post-seismic intervention measures intensifies women’s vulnerability. Respondents point out that DRR planning, policies and practices have been male-centred and men-managed, and in many cases they do not reflect the needs and voices of women and other vulnerable social groups. On the other hand, they value their local faith community for the way it quickly responded to their needs and demands: the prompt safety assessment via SNS; the availability of gender-sensitive shelters, goods and food; gender-specific services; and emotional support. The local faith communities’ understanding of the complexities of their issues and women’s situatedness within the community ― often combined with an existing track record of care and welfare service volunteering ― has served as a strong foundation for provision of support and resilience. Even conservative religious groups such as Sōka Gakkai have become source of successful gender-sensitive responsive activities where women’s agency combines both the needs-based and the equality right-based views. Such findings highlight the need to develop official procedures encompassing more adaptive and inclusive models of disaster management to harness women’s capacities and faith-based resilience that exist within and across communities in Japan.

Paola Cavaliere is an Associate Professor of Japanese Studies at Osaka University, Graduate School of Human Sciences, and the Associate Director of the Human Sciences International Undergraduate Programme. Her research interests are in the area of gender, religion and civil society in Japan. Paola is currently investigating disaster-related gender and religious dimensions of vulnerability and resilience through an analysis of women’s roles in faith-based volunteer groups contributing to post-disaster activities. She has lately included the COVID-19-related institutional and faith-based volunteer response activities in her investigation. Paola holds a BA in Japanese Language and Literature (University of Venice, Italy) and a double PhD degree in East Asian Studies from the University of Sheffield, School of East Asian Studies, and in Law from Tohoku University, Graduate School of Law. Paola has published several works on a gendered approach to Japanese faith-based volunteering and she is currently editing the Handbook of Disaster Studies in Japan (forthcoming 2023).

The guest lecture is a part of event series celebrating the 15th anniversary of CEAS.

Please write to if you would like to join the event. Zoom invitations will be send out to the registered participants. We hope to see you there!

Best wishes,
Dr Kamila Szczepanska
University Lecturer
Centre for East Asian Studies
University of Turku
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