[INTERVIEW] 'More female leaders needed in disaster recovery'

Source(s): Korea Times Co.

By Park Ji-won


In Japan, a country which frequently faces various natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic eruptions due to its location in the Ring of Fire of the Pacific Ocean, calls are rising for more gender-based perspectives in disaster response roles. It became more obvious that more women die than men in the wake of disasters and women are prone to be left behind in disaster care needs.


The [Training Center for Gender & Disaster Risk Reduction] chief [Sachiko Asano], who was raised by her single mother, started volunteer activities for the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 and began working as an activist for various social issues including disaster risk reduction in 1999. She has been paying extra attention to gender-related issues at disaster scenes since 2003 as she felt that helping the weak, elderly, children and women can directly relate to her personal security as well as experience as a child of a vulnerable family.


Through her work, she discovered that gender equality directly affects the quality of life of those at disaster shelters and believes that employing more women is key to improving conditions for everyone. She said one of the reasons is that men who run local disaster control centers don't listen to female community members who are usually the ones responsible for taking care of the elderly and children and thus have a better idea of what is needed.


To tackle the current male-dominated situation, she urged Japanese women, who consider patience a virtue, to take action by themselves, to take more leadership positions in disaster situations and to speak up about their needs. Asano also underlined the necessity of educating women to become leaders at the governmental and private level so that women can participate in decision-making processes and give better victim-oriented perspectives and thus can improve the shelters' environment and save more lives with better conditions.


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