Gendered Barrier in Post-Disaster Financial Assistance: The case study of 2011 Thailand flood

Thailand's worst floods in half a century were not only a driver in causing damage to millions of homes and livelihoods around the country, but also a ‘gendered driver’ in exacerbating women’s coping strategy to environmental risk through the flood compensation schemes.

2011 flood of Thailand                   

In 2011, Thailand experienced its worst flood in 61 years. In total, 65 out of Thailand’s 77 provinces were affected. Economic losses were estimated by the World Bank at 45.7 billion USD, including particular losses in manufacturing, tourism, personal property and agriculture (The World Bank, 2012). The accumulations of rainfall induced by climate change, and the overloading of the capacity of major dams in the northern part of the country worsened the situation for flood victims.

The study took place in Krachang community 2 and 3, Pathum Thani province, in the Bangkok peri-urban area, which was one of the hardest hit areas in the flood. In order to protect the capital, it was decided to divert the devastating floodwaters to the peri-urban areas surrounding Bangkok (Winn, 2011). The floodwater from the north reached Pathum Thani in the middle of October, and in early January 2012 the situation improved, taking longer time than the city centre of Bangkok.

The state-led emergency assistance schemes

To assist the flood victims, two programmes of post-flood financial assistance were provided by the government to affected households. The first flood compensation was 5,000 THB (≈143 USD) per family across all 36 flood-affected provinces. It aimed at immediate assistance with basic needs during the aftermath of the flood (World Bank, 2012). The second round of assistance followed when the flood started to dry with 20,000 (≈570 USD), but no more than 30,000 THB (≈856 USD) depending on the loss evaluation of each house. Loss evaluation was conducted by ‘assessment committees’ in each local authority, set up by the Governor’s Office in each province requiring a list of damaged property and estimated price such as damage of houses’ materials, kitchenware, lightings, cloth and equipment for income generation. More importantly, both compensation schemes required a registered head of household as legal representatives of the household to receive the funds.

Gendered barrier to disaster assistance

There are two types of housing-right holders following different regulations in Thailand. The first is a registered head of household. According to the Civil Registration Act 1991; house registration requires one registered head of household. He or she is considered as a legal representative of household to act upon the regulation such as birth registration, death registration, informing moving in-and-out to the provincial authority. The house representative also has the responsibility to interact with other authorities. The second type is a house owner who has right in legally selling and transferring, regarding Civil and Commercial Code. The registered head of household could be the same or different to the house owner who holds the rights of the property (Suelek, 2013). Under this study it was found that both types of housing-right holders were occupied by male breadwinners.

Mostly, a husband is a register head of household because a wife is not local and moves in to a husband’s family. The house ownership belongs to a husband. A wife has to follow and provides supports to a husband. Mostly wives in the village are non-local as well. They came from many parts of Thailand”. (Mrs. Praphai, the Krachang 3 villager)

Within the matrilineal and matrilocal systems, male family members often exert primary authority over land and other significant assets (USAID, 201). The house usually belongs to men as a traditional head of household. Only a handful of registered female-headed households were elder mothers. Male dominant in entitlement, in addition, causes the imbalance power between men and women in the household. Under this study, it was found that three male-headed households were officially given the money, and spent it for their personal purposes such as alcohol and taking care of mistresses; whereas their wives were not able to access that money to fix and repair the house damages from the flooding as a following an interview below.

“Because I am not a head of household, I have no right with this money. I am a housewife and I have no income to improve my house condition or spent during the crisis. He took all money from the flooding compensation. The damages of the great flood in 2011 do not only exist, but I lost a laundry machine and 3 wardrobes. I have no one to ask for help because the only friend I have got is my daughter.” (Mrs. Nong, the Krachang 3 villager)

The non-local housewives with no income and limited survival strategies, for instance, had less power to negotiate on financial assistance. The three cases of housewives were not able to access the compensation because they were not registered heads of household as stated in house registration. All husbands had regular income from a state enterprise and companies; while the housewives did not have financial resources. Two of the respondents, however, had received some assistance from their adult children and another wife had her daughter to bargain money from the husband.                                                                                                                                                               


The disaster relief in this article inadequately helped women to respond to the loss, in particular those who were not registered heads of household. The institution of marriage which is still traditionally patriarchal, has become a gendered driver exacerbating women’s status in the family. The non-local female, moved into the husband’s family after marriage. They decided to follow their husbands because they were obliged to perform ‘a supportive wife’ to the family. Consequently, the entitlement to house registration has been male-dominated. Men as a breadwinner largely held the right in registered head of household which they were able to receive the cash transfer from the authority and finished the funds without consideration from their wives. As the result, those non-local wives found difficulties in seeking assistance when they faced weeks of extensive flooding.

The concerned authorities in flood relief and post-flood assistance should pay attention to potential effects from gender factor. Through this study, the issues that should be considered include different needs of the flood victims due to different gender roles, gender differences in accessing the authorities’ assistance and intra-households power relations over flood compensation funds.


This study is part of a regional project, ‘Adapting to Climate Change in Peri-urban Southeast Asia’ (Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam), and was supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).


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Suelek, M. (2013). The difference between 'registered head of household and house owner' [เจ้าบ้านกับเจ้าของบ้าน ความเหมือนที่แตกต่าง]. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from Prawet District office:

The World Bank (2012). Rapid Assessment for Resilient Recovery and Reconstruction Planning. Bangkok: The World Bank.

USAID (2011). USAID Country Profile: Property rights and resource governance Thailand. Retrieved May 10, 2014, from Government Savings Bank:

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social assistance - General
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Disasters and crisis
  • Environment and climate change
  • Gender
  • Housing and infrastructure
  • Risk and vulnerability
  • Thailand
  • East Asia & Pacific
The views presented here are the author's and not's