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MANILA: Women should be allowed to participate in the crafting of policies designed to mitigate the effects of disasters, the United Nations said yesterday.
In a statement issued on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, Pratibha Mehta, UN resident coordinator in Vietnam, said the strength of women in reducing disaster risks should be recognized.
“Too often, women and girls are portrayed as just passive victims of disasters. Yet women and girls have unique skills and expertise which must be used and reflected in national policies and actions,” Mehta said.
“It is essential to make full use of the experience and knowledge women and girls have when addressing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation,” she added.
October 13 marks the UN International Day for Disaster Reduction and the Asean Day for Disaster Management. The theme for this year is “Women and Girls, the (in)Visible Force of Resilience.”
Jerry Velasquez, senior regional coordinator of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction for Asia and the Pacific, said more women than men die as direct and indirect results of disasters.
“This effect is strongest in countries with very low social and economic rights for women,” he said.
Velasquez cited the case of cyclone “Nargis” in Myanmar, where about 61 percent of the fatalities were women. He said the women fatalities during the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh were four times greater than those among men.
Velasquez said disasters and climate change-related events have different effects on women and men.
“This is due to the different roles they occupy, the different responsibilities given to them in life, and the differences in their capacities, needs and vulnerabilities,” Velasquez said. “In the aftermath of disasters, women’s workload often increases as they become the sole breadwinners for their families when men die, are injured or migrate,” he added.
Velasquez noted that women in the Philippines have occupied key policy-making roles.
Of the 284 members of the House of Representatives, 65 or almost 23 percent are women. Three women also made it to the 23-person Philippine Senate.
“In other countries, women are often missing from the decision-making processes related to disaster risk management, such as post disaster assessments, recovery programming, and disaster reduction,” he said.
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