The main objectives of this research are to A) identify and understand how women in city experience vulnerability to flooding; B) the impact of flooding on women; C) and how women use knowledge about flooding as tools for agency and empowerment. The first concept I use is vulnerability, which focuses on how risk impacts women’s immobility, burden of work, economic losses, and emotional impacts. The second concept, women’s empowerment, focuses on the intersection of knowledge and agency during floods. These concepts are examined through the intersection of gender, class, age, disability. Three research sites located in different areas in Cần Thơ City highlight a range of vulnerability, impacts, and coping strategies in women’s experience of floods. Qualitative data collection included a household survey, followed by in depth-interviews of women and relevant actors, participant observation, and mapping.
The research found that in the context of the emergent phenomenon of urban flooding, both women and men are vulnerable to flood impacts, but outcomes tend to be worse for women because their lives are closer to the floods. Women’s vulnerability is multiplied by their immobility during flooding. They play additional roles which burden them with both work and health problems. Additionally, women experience three types of economic losses: first, personal losses from health problems associated with close contact with flood waters; second, income losses from limited economic participation and employment during the flooding period; and third, household losses from the loss of property.
In six detailed interviews (elder, lottery seller, street seller; disability, bottle collector, lecturer) women expressed emotional and psychological burdens they experienced during the flooding period, but their experiences were shaped by their social contexts or demographic characteristics. For example, “pain” was a key emotion for overworked and elderly women, low-income and small-business owning women expressed “fear” due to risks to income. Many women were able to use their knowledge in order to re-shape flood outcomes. Women who were successful in this regard used both knowledge spheres as women’s experience and women’s participation in order to achieve their goals. Among the women who participated in this study, the elderly and disabled were more marginalized, and less able to overcome flooding than other women because of their physical limitations and diminished social and family support. In sum, while most women had sufficient knowledge to overcome flood risks, women who were already marginalized or disabled, and who had less social support, were not able to take action on their knowledge in order to reduce flood risks. Therefore, policies and development programs needed to help empower these women.