The Embassy co-hosting a roundtable meeting addressing the gender inequality of risk

participants at the rountable meeting
Foto: UNWomen/Yoomi Jun

Yesterday 14 November, the Norwegian Embassy attended a roundtable meeting addressing the unequal risk exposure of women and girls to the impact of disasters. The roundtable meeting was jointly organized by the Norwegian Embassy, UN Women, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Women’s rights and gender equality has been at the core of Norway’s development cooperation efforts for many years. The need to mitigate the gender inequality of the loss of lives and livelihoods in disasters is therefore a strong priority for Norway.

Providing an overview of the Gender Inequality of Risk Partnership, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women Anna-Karin Jatfors noted that Asia Pacific is the most disaster prone region in the world, with over 41% of disasters occurring in this region. Based on data collected in recent years, Ms. Jatfors explained that women are more likely to die of as a result of a disaster than men. She also noted that disasters not only kill more women, but they can further reinforce, perpetuate and increase gender inequality, making bad situations worse for women. However, women must not merely be seen as victims, but as agents for change. Women are untapped resources for community stability and resilience, due to for instance to their knowledge about the need of the community. Hence they are often highly capable of coming up with local solutions. Ms. Jatfors stressed that in order to benefit from the resource of women, we must address the gender dimension of risk and resilience of communities.

In order to create greater awareness about the gender dimension of risk, UN Women, UNISDR and IFRC launched the Gender Inequality of Risk Partnership (GIR) in support of a gender responsive Sendai Framework in May this year. The global program seeks to; (1) create an understanding of the gender dimension of risk, (2) so that governments develop a gender responsive disaster risk framework, (3) and work to improve women’s capacity and leadership to prevent, prepare for and recover from disasters, (4) which again will create more resilient communities and mitigate the gender inequality of loss of lives and livelihood.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reductions 2015-2030 was adopted at the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in march 2015. It is a 15-year voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk, but that responsibilities are to be shared with other stakeholders including local governments and the private sector. As explained by Animesh Kumar, Deputy Chief of UNISDR Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, The Sendai Framework takes a gender approach in several ways. It encourages the empowerment of women for preparedness and prevention, and their capacity for alternate livelihood post-disaster situations. It also draws attention to need for risk informed decision-making, based on disaggregated data including by sex, age and disability.

In the second panel discussion representatives from various organizations in Asia Pacific shared their experiences working on the gender dimension of disaster risk. Andreane Tampubolon, Head of Restoring Family Links Sub Division in Indonesia pointed to the ‘paternalistic culture’ as a challenge in addressing the gender dimension of risk in rural areas in Indonesia. Nadeem Kashish and Hoorum, Volunteers at Pakistan Red Crescent addressed the vulnerability of the transgender community in case of disaster. Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Executive Producer-Director of femLINK Pacific argued that with the increasing number of disasters, the gender dimension must be applied to disaster risk frameworks. In order to ensure that the gender dimension is addressed in disaster risk frameworks; women rights networks must be strengthened, and decision making on disaster risk must be based on disaggregated data.

The objective of the roundtable was to increase awareness of UN Women-UNISDR-IFRC partnership: Addressing the Gender Inequality of Risk and Promoting Community Resilience in Asia Pacific, and to promote implementation of the gender specific aspects of the Sendai Framework.