UN wants disaster reduction programs to focus on women

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Women and girls should be the focus of disaster risk reduction as they often bear the brunt of climate change, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said yesterday.

Experts tasked to monitor the implementation of a UN landmark policy that seeks to end discrimination against women were told during a gathering in Geneva that women and girls needed to be at the core of disaster risk reduction.

UNISDR head Robert Glasser cited the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, saying it puts the gender issue in the spotlight.

The Sendai framework is a 15-year international blueprint adopted last year in Japan, which aims to save lives and curb the economic impact of natural and man-made calamities.

“The Sendai framework places significant importance on human rights, gender equality and climate change adaptation,” Glasser said.

He said the gender issue is a key component of the framework’s shift from managing disasters to managing risk.

Among the gender equality gaps that needed to be addressed, according to Glasser, are women participation in decision-making and resource management, and access to social protection measures, education, health and early warning.

“Women are greatly affected by disasters. There is a need for more precise information and disaggregated data on the impact of disasters in order to take better correction measures,” he said.

Disasters affect men and women, and boys and girls, differently for a range of reasons.

The UNISDR cited some gender inequalities that could affect the decision of women and girls on matters concerning themselves as well as their access to resources, and sidelines them from joining activities meant to mitigate the impact of disasters.

Due to socio-economic conditions, cultural beliefs and traditional practices, the UNISDR said women and girls are more likely to be affected when calamity strikes.

Nahla Haidar, chief of the UN committee on the elimination of discrimination against women, said these disadvantages are exacerbated by views that women are victims and vulnerable, when they should be acknowledged as actors.

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