Understanding gender discrimination, gender analysis and gender-sensitive programming in disaster situations is critical to protecting human rights. Equally, understanding risk factors that contribute to gender-based violence (GBV) during and after disasters, and implementing appropriate prevention and response measures, is an important, specialized area of protection in emergency settings. In the Pacific Island context, the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT) through the UN Gender Group, realized that there is limited understanding and practice – among government, non-government and community actors – of mainstreaming gender and GBV prevention/response into emergency preparedness, response and recovery activities across sectors.
The severity of the two floods in Fiji took the country by surprise and highlighted the gender and protection, preparedness and response gaps (amongst others) at different levels. Evidence emerged from brief field visits by UN agencies that gender and protection concerns had not been adequately addressed, nor was there enough awareness on prevention and response measures for GBV. The UN Gender Group took the opportunity to gather data to support advocacy and training for more effective preparedness and response activities from a gender and protection perspective.
Thus, UN Women and UNFPA1 collaborated with UN OCHA, the principle agency dealing with coordination in emergencies, to conduct a post-flood review and analysis of gender and GBV issues from the perspective of flood-prone and flood-affected communities. The findings from this initiative have already sparked two Gender in Emergencies trainings in the Pacific. It has seen the formation of two country-based communities of practice in Fiji and Vanuatu in support of the humanitarian teams present in those countries and in the region to deal with gender and GBV issues in emergencies. The Pacific Humanitarian Team Annual Meeting consolidated this movement by strengthening a regional network of gender focal points established previously which comprised of two female representatives from five disaster-prone countries (Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) with ten male volunteers from the PHT in the region. The UN Gender Group will maintain this network and build their capacity for more effective preparedness, response and recovery.