Women play key role in rebuilding lives after Chile earthquake
Four months since one of the most potent earthquakes in history shattered communities and lives in southern Chile, women have shown that they hold the key to reconstruction and recovery initiatives, Maxine Lowry writes exclusively for the Women's Media Centre.
In the pre-dawn hours of February 27, an earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale struck south central Chile, resulting in 500 deaths and directly affecting two million people as a result of the destruction of more than 200,000 homes and workplaces.
Although the media focused their lenses on dazed women and children in the wake of natural disasters, they failed to show the vital role that women played in response to such natural disasters.
In Talca, about 300 kilometers south of Santiago, where practically every building in the historic centre collapsed and at least 83 people lost their lives, Benedicta Aravena, social projects coordinator for the feminist organization Centro Social Quidel, says women immediately set up soup kitchens to feed not only their own families but neighbours as well.
Subsequently, housing advocacy committees, all led by women, were formed to demand adequate housing and obtain subsidies to rebuild or buy new homes in a city where 2,400 emergency cabins, which barely protect from the harsh winds and rains of the southern hemisphere winter, have been distributed.