On Disasters and Disaster Knowledges

Daniela Paredes Grijalva and Rahmadiyah Tria Gayathri

On Disasters and Disaster Knowledges: A Conversation on the Pasigala 2018 Earthquake in Indonesia

In September 2018, a powerful earthquake and tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. More than 1.200 people were confirmed dead, many of whom were swept away by the huge waves. But disasters are not ‘natural’. The ways we inhabit space matter. What voices are heard before and after a disaster? How could spatial planning prevent disasters? Two women on different continents tackle these questions in a conversation.

Disasters are particularly harmful to women and 2018 was no exception. Women are the primary caregivers for children, the elderly and vulnerable groups. So when disaster strikes they have to look after their own survival and that of others. In planning our settlements—be they temporary or permanent—these factors need to be considered. What are the differential needs of people who will use the spaces? If women aren’t part of that conversation, of spatial planning and decision-making, how can we know their needs?

It is important to amplify women’s voices, especially indigenous women who carry generations of knowledge about living in a place. In Indonesia, patriarchal and hierarchical ways of thinking dominate disaster management regulations, often relegating women to a secondary role. In the Central Sulawesi region, we see that while there are encounters with the state, initiatives on the ground become realities thanks to strong female leadership and their tireless will.