Forum for building back better after Typhoon Yolanda

Client / Company: Women’s Education, Development and Productivity Research Program (WeDpro)
Industry: Social Services – DRRM
Research Method: Ethnographic Research

Objectives and Methodologies

Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines in November 2013 with extreme wind speeds and catastrophic storm surge, leaving 16 million people affected. USAID estimated 4.1 million people displaced and 1.1 million homes destroyed. The Women’s Education, Development and Productivity Research Program (WeDpro) wanted to address shelter needs in affected coastal barangays with relatively high populations of vulnerable women. Their challenge: How to build permanent housing structures, considering the current and future priorities of affected homeowners? Curiosity started with rapid damage assessment of over a hundred homes for resiliency-enhancing features, comparing it with existing shelter standards. Several prototypes were developed in consultation with NGOs and funders, barangay officials, and local residents.


Building Back Better – Initial Roadblocks

The result was a shelter design that was disaster resilient, expandable and affordable, made of local materials and skills, and sensitive to vulnerable members. But no shelters were built. Land title-related challenges cropped up owing to verbal inheritances, as well as titles and identification having been washed away in the storm surge. Moreover, vulnerable women who were selected to benefit from the shelter program refused to participate. They would rather maintain the benefits of keeping social ties (sharing food, relief assistance) than risk being cut-off from rest of community out of envy.


Building Back Better – The Evacuation Center

Learning from this experience, WeDpro and Curiosity refrained from prescribing a specific form of shelter and instead held a series of in-depth discussions with the next project site to learn from the community what they feel is the type of structure to build. The barangay opted for an Evacuation Center, so that everyone can benefit. It now stands as the first structure purposely built as an evacuation center in the Visayas Region and is managed by the local Women Defender’s Group organized by WeDpro.


Building Back Better – Involving Women

The key finding was that the challenges of Building Back Better are socio-cultural as much as they are technological. Household efforts to rebuild after Typhoon Yolanda often involve male family members. As a result, many structures were not responsive to the household responsibilities of women. WeDpro wanted to encourage women to participate more actively in rebuilding their homes. Curiosity worked with women architects and disaster specialists to develop an interactive forum in which female residents can learn to build better in ways that address their own spatial concerns involving childcare, household management and other responsibilities. Through the dissemination of gender-neutral visual aids on designing for resilience plus interactive demonstrations of the design principles illustrated in these visuals, WeDpro and Curiosity created venues to encourage women to participate in rebuilding post-disaster.