Noumea, New Caledonia - A guide that prompts disaster risk managers to consider the different impacts of disasters on the lives of women and men living in small islands countries was launched today.
Integrating Gender in Disaster Risk Management in Small Island Developing States: A Guide is intended as a practical tool for disaster managers and their teams working to build resilience at the community level.
It was launched at the 4th session of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Management and Pacific Regional Water and Sanitation Consultations, attended by some 200 specialists from the Pacific as well as the Caribbean region.
The guide outlines the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific and the Caribbean and explains how gender roles and responsibilities result in differential exposure to disasters. It encourages disaster risk managers to put on a “gender lens” and analyse what women and men do in their daily lives, look at how they interact and what specific needs arise out of this, and factor these in every aspect of their work. It advocates recognizing that women and men also bring diverse knowledge and capacities, which help to make disaster risk management more effective.
Divided into phases of disaster management, the guide provides disaster managers with a series of checklists that will help them make sure that pre- and post-disaster actions take the needs of women and men into consideration. The guide provides questions for disaster managers to facilitate the participation and consultation of women, children and vulnerable groups in planning disaster projects and programs. Gender-sensitive indicators for conducting risk assessments are also outlined so that disaster managers can better measure the results of integrating gender into disaster management. The guide is published in a small-pocket book size for better portability.
One of the aims of the guide is to illustrate the similar experiences of the Caribbean and the Pacific. The two regions share common characteristics of island regions— small land mass, limited economies of scale, small populations, remoteness and inaccessibility, and lack of economic diversification — and represent a diversity of languages, cultures and histories. Both regions are highly vulnerable to natural disasters; this vulnerability is now greater due to an increase in extreme weather events such as drought, heavy rains, hurricanes and sea level rise due to climate change and human activity on the ecosystem.
“The connections between climate change and the increased incidence of hurricanes, droughts, massive floods, similar destructive phenomena and the ensuing human and material losses are now becoming more apparent. Climate risk cannot be adequately mitigated or managed without understanding and acting on the basis of how these risks play out on the ground among men and women,” said Jacinda Fairholm, Project Manager, Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI).
“As women and men have different socially prescribed roles and therefore to a large extent, engage in different types of activities, and occupy different spaces, the exposure to risk and its impact on women and men cannot be considered or treated in the same manner. If risk management policies and practices are to be effective, there must be sensitivity to these differences in exposure and impact. We must also acknowledge, in the search for solutions, the various coping and adaptation strategies men and women undertake at the local level. For fragile countries and communities living in precarious situations, the way forward requires recognizing and mobilizing the talents and capacities of all, and moving beyond stereotypes.”
Astrid Gopoéa from the Ministry of Culture and Women’s Affairs in New Caledonia spoke at the launch of the guide. She outlined the activities the government is undertaking to address gender inequality. She said that inequality existed between the various groups of women – indigenous women, women of European origin and women from other Pacific Islands living in New Caledonia. She also emphasized the need have sex disaggregated data in order to better address the gender gaps.
“Women and men have different roles to play, they have different capacities, strengths and needs which are usually linked to their traditional roles that society has imposed on them.”
Ms Gopoéa spoke about some of the climate change adaptation activities undertaken in certain parts of New Caledonia by women and cited the example of mangrove replanting.
Guide Responds to Calls by Community Disaster Risk Managers
Training workshops for disaster risk managers and practitioners on gender mainstreaming have been held by UNDP, jointly with other agencies in the Caribbean and the Pacific. As a result, participants have called for concrete tools to help them identify and integrate gender into their decision-making and actions on the ground in every phase of disaster risk management.
“The guide is a response to these calls. It is intended to provide national disaster management personnel working in the SIDS with a tool to strengthen their practice; it is not intended to be exhaustive and should be considered as an aid to complement pre-existing knowledge. It provides an overview and should allow the practitioner to better focus the management of, and decision–making around, disaster situations through considering specific gender needs and perspectives,” said Karen Bernard, Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery Specialist at UNDP Pacific Centre.
The guide is produced by the United Nations Development Programme, led by the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI) and in close coordination with a project on South-South Cooperation between Pacific and Caribbean Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management.
The following partners have supported the development and publication of the guide: the UNDP Spanish Trust Fund, UNDP Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, the UNDP Japanese Partnership Fund, UNDP Pacific Centre and the UNDP Barbados and Cuba country offices.
The Pacific Platform is an annual opportunity for countries, development partners and donors to share experiences and knowledge in building the resilience of their island communities to disasters. It is run by SPC in partnership with the UNISDR and is supported by partner organisations, including The Asia Foundation, United Stated Agency for International Development, the University of the South Pacific, United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, AusAID, the European Union and the French Pacific Fund.