The Realities of Peripheral Handicraft Livelihoods in the Face of Disasters in Vanuatu

Rachel Clissold
Ross Westoby
Viviane Obed

The South Pacific Islands region faces unique challenges and heightened impacts from disasters, which are influenced by structural characteristics of remoteness, smallness, insularity, peripherality, low elevations, and urban primacy. The combined catastrophic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, border closures, and multiple cyclones, have recently devastated livelihoods, especially those dependent on tourism, in Vanuatu. The voices of women and those working in the ‘informal tourism sector’ are rarely heard. This is an oversight considering marginalised groups need improved resilience-building prospects and well-targeted risk management and social protection initiatives. Drawing from 13 unstructured interviews with handicraft vendors in 2018 and 2021, this case study aims to investigate the lived experiences of female informal workers in a multi-hazard environment. Intersecting hazards causing significant loss included tropical cyclones, COVID-19, and the inequities and marginalising forces of being women in the informal sector. Women’s voices, knowledge, and needs are often sidelined by government, particularly through a lack of social protection policies and crisis responses. The gendered burdens thus accumulate, resulting in heavy workloads and emotional burdens. Evidence of handicraft vendors developing coping and response strategies without formal support include livelihood diversification, returning to traditional subsistence lifestyles, and collective financial risk-sharing, which have led to informal resilience-building outcomes.

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Research Type(s)
Journal Article
February 5, 2024
Published in

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