Women, Disasters, & Climate Change

Curator's Note

In this presentation, Women, Disasters, & Climate Change, I specifically showcase how women helped in disaster management during the Nepal earthquake which happened on April 25, 2015 and killed more than 8979 people in 14 districts of Nepal. Women’s active role in community organizing and advocacy in times of crisis is not sufficiently  represented. I wanted to understand how Nepali women were able to exercise transnational rhetorical agency and ecological literacies through disaster response. This question comes amid reports that suggest women and girls were the most vulnerable citizens during the earthquake and lost their lives because of the assigned gendered roles inside their homes (Post Disaster Needs Assessment). Nepali women are often categorized as being vulnerable, in need of protection, and without agency; however, the female participants for my project shared an alternative narrative of agency and social action. Amid the vulnerability rhetoric about women, I showcase that studying this situation via alternative narratives of women can illuminate the kinds of future responses that will be needed in the wake of climate change disasters and events. I am regarding the women participants as transnational women (see Hesford and Schell; Wang). Transnational women in the context of disaster are those who have created a connection beyond their nationality, established networks (personal or official) beyond their geographical locations, and have been engaged locally or globally with the use of digital media.

In this study I conducted narrative inquiry with 7 different women. Narrative inquiry allowed my participants and me to have a common space, breaking down the dichotomies between participant and researcher as we focused on having a conversation about our lived experiences during and after the earthquake. The women I interviewed display rhetorical agency as they worked nationally as well as globally, writing, researching, and disseminating information as well as fundraising and organizing relief work. The participants displayed their rhetorical agencies by mobilizing their networks and by using technological mediums to connect and collaborate with people around the globe. Their rhetorical agency in outreach and use of technology helped in the formation of various formal and informal assemblages as participants managed unprecedented risks in post-earthquake Nepal.

Women’s strong ties to the environment and roles in natural resource management make them powerful agents of change with knowledge and skills for building resilience to climate change, climate disaster, and supporting low emission development (“Gender, Climate and Disaster Resilience”). To share environmental risk awareness and ecological literacies, the participants used various communication technologies including radios and social media. Additionally, participants’ ecological literacies enabled them to navigate the disaster-initiated ecosystem and to create comprehensive information and distributing it to the community via social media like FacebookTwitter, or blogs.

I honor the role, the rhetorical agency, and the ecological literacies of transnational women in Nepal who were the focal point of various assemblages that addressed networks of response to the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake. The stories of women who have worked on small- or large-scale relief efforts related to disaster should be highlighted in work addressing climate change literacies and global rhetorics. While the environmental risks are increasing with climate change, it is evident that different populations throughout the world will not be impacted in the same ways, and women can play a significant role in developing community resilience through their rhetorical agency.

This snapshot is adapted from longer version of this article can be accessed and read here: Managing Environmental Risks in the Age of Climate Change: Rhetorical Agency and Ecological Literacies of Transnational Women During the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake (https://www.enculturation.net/managing_environmental)



Baniya, S. Managing Environmental Risks in the Age of Climate Change: Rhetorical Agency and Ecological Literacies of Transnational Women During the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake | enculturation. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from http://enculturation.net/managing_environmental

“Gender, Climate and Disaster Resilience.” UNDP. www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/2030-agenda-for-sustainable-development/people/gender-equality/gender--climate-and-disaster-resilience.html. Accessed 8 June 2020.

Government of Nepal. Post Disaster Needs Assessment. 2015.

Hesford, Wendy S., and Eileen E. Schell. “Introduction: Configurations of Transnationality: Locating Feminist Rhetorics.” College English, vol. 70, no. 5, 2008, pp. 461-70.

Schell, Eileen. “Transnational Environmental Justice Rhetorics and the Green Belt Movement: Wangari Muta Maathai’s Ecological Rhetorics and Literacies.” JAC vol. 33, no. 3/4, 2013, pp. 585-613.

Wang, Bo. “Comparative Rhetoric, Postcolonial Studies, and Transnational Feminisms: A Geopolitical Approach.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, 2013, pp. 226-42.



Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.