Women’s Role in Disaster Risk Reduction

This blog piece published on Friday at justmeans.com (link below) begins:

On February 26, 1852, the HMS Birkenhead struck rocks off the coast of South Africa. There weren't enough lifeboats for the 643 people aboard, and Captain Robert Salmond immediately ordered the wives and children to board them while the men remained to try to save the ship. This act of chivalry would become a standard maritime code of conduct summed up by the famous phrase, "Women and children first." And while there is logic behind it, this concept has helped to ingrain the notion that in times of crisis, women are primarily the helpless, not the helpers. As the #HerDay2015 Twitter discussions commemorating International Women's Day come to a close, just as the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction starts in Sendai, Japan, it seems an appropriate time to consider an important question: What is the role of women in reducing the risk of disaster?

The writer, Reynard Loki, goes on to cite examples around the world of how women are involved differently in disaster risk reduction, if they’re involved at all.

In the Philippines, preparing for disaster is woven into the growing-up process for girls. They learn from their mothers and grandmothers because they have to, to survive; In Laos, women are especially proactive in Village Disaster Management Committees (part of a UN program). In Papua New Guinea, researchers found that a participatory approach – involving the entire community, specifically women – is the best way to achieve community resilience.

The writer concludes:

The Third Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is the first of four landmark meetings in a particularly critical year for the United Nations, which is charged with setting the global development and climate agenda at several major international events. After Sendai, delegates will go to Addis Ababa in July to renew global development financing. In September, the UN will host a special summit for the adoption of a global sustainability agenda in New York. Then it's on to Paris in December to adopt a universal text on climate change. And while all these high level talks go on, change can be witnessed across the globe in the lives of everyday women, driven to change their lives as well as the lives of their families and the communities in which they live. A little over 2,000 miles south of Sendai, across the South China Sea, is Manila, the bustling capital of the Philippines. And there, in a large company, works Mary Rose, a 20-year-old Filipina who learned welding and got a welding job through Children International's Into Employment initiative. She is one of only eight female welders in the firm, which employs a total of 200 welders. "A determined woman can do everything a man can do," said Mary Rose, adding that her experience with Children International "confirmed my belief that girls can do what boys can do.”{12}  One of the meetings on the agenda at the Sendai conference is entitled "Mobilizing Women’s Leadership in DRR." Perhaps attendees should ask Mary Rose her thoughts about disaster risk reduction. After all, a sturdy infrastructure—fundamental to any sound DRR strategy—requires the talents of a good welder. And it's quite possible that if she had been on board when disaster struck the HMS Birkenhead—one of the first iron-hulled ships built for the British Royal Navy—Captain Salmond might have said, "Women and children first—except for Mary Rose.


For more, visit the original blog post here: http://www.justmeans.com/blogs/the-role-of-women-in-disaster-risk-reduction

For a video from the Sendai conference discussing women’s role in DRR, click here: http://www.wcdrr.org/conference/events/854