Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Gender equality a victim of Morakot

By Tseng Chao-yuan, A’pau 曾昭媛,江梅惠

On Sept. 3 the Cabinet announced the members of the Morakot Post-disaster Reconstruction Commission. Surprisingly, all eight representatives of the victims and Aborigines among the 37 commission members are civil servants: township chiefs and speakers and village chiefs. The only exception is the chairman of a self-help group from Siaolin Village (小林) in Kaohsiung County.

Astonishingly, the government seems to have ignored the many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were so swiftly organized after Morakot, such as the self-governance committee in Kaohsiung County’s Namasiya Township (那瑪夏), the Southern Tribal Reconstruction Alliance and other groups devoted to the relief work.

The other commission members from NGOs are four businesspeople and four academics, who mostly have a background in civil engineering, and a representative from a semi-official foundation. Other NGOs for environmental protection, social welfare and community empowerment have been all but excluded.

The Post-Typhoon Morakot Reconstruction Special Act (莫拉克颱風災後重建特別條例) actually opens a door for the government. The act not only contains articles that allow the forceful relocation of villages, it also removes the restrictions stipulated in the Regional Planning Act (區域計畫法), Urban Planning Act (都市計畫法), National Park Act (國家公園法), Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法), Soil and Water Conservation Act (水土保持法) and other related legislation.

This makes it clear that what the government has in mind are shortsighted and expedient measures to abolish long-term goals for the sustainable development of environmental ecology and community culture.

The commission is conveniently ignoring environmental and Aboriginal groups that may “cause trouble” because the government probably believes that reconstruction work is only about civil engineering. As Article 2 of the reconstruction act states, reconstruction should “respect diverse cultures, ensure community participation, protect national land and conserve environmental resources.”

Detailed clauses for its execution, however, are absent. Clearly, the words are nothing but empty talk added after the wave of public complaints.

Another thing: There is not a single woman among the non-­governmental commission members. Among the 37 committee members, there are only three female officials: Chang Jen-hsiang (章仁香), outgoing minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) and Taitung County Commissioner Kuang Li-chen (鄺麗貞). All the other commission members are men. This is a return to traditional decision making by a male elite. The man-made disasters created by bad decisions in the past have caused many elderly people, women and children to lose their homes, and we constantly see on TV how female victims of Morakot cry with female volunteers trying to comfort them. On the Internet, we see many women engaged in disaster relief, helping to cook, delivering goods, carrying information and giving psychological support as well as becoming officials in self-help organizations where they stand up to correct the government’s mistakes.

Despite this, there appears to be little room for women in decision-making.

This is a fundamental violation of the principle set by the Cabinet in 2005 that at least one-third of members of every commission under the Cabinet should be women. The Cabinet’s Committee of Women’s Rights Promotion reminded the Cabinet on Aug. 31 that it should follow this principle, but the list of new commission members announced on Sept. 3 did not add any women. It appears that gender equality has become yet another victim of government hot air.

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