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Empowered women and girls lead the way to disaster resilience

 

Bangkok _ Women from ASEAN and South Asia local communities gather today in Bangkok to urge governments and institutions to put women and girls at the heart of disaster prevention and risk reduction work.

In a universal call to the governments in the region to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13, Orla Murphy, Chair of the AADMER Partnership Group (APG), said that “The exclusion especially of women and girls – especially those living in poverty – from disaster risk reduction (DRR) work result in further vulnerability. This is not primarily due to their lack of capacity or attitudes to risk, but to inequalities between men and women, and between boys and girls. Empowering women and girls is indispensable to real community resilience and significant reduction of disaster impacts.”

Millions of women across the world have proved that with adequate and right knowledge in disaster risk preparedness, they are the ones who effectively influence family members and communities in making better choices that can save lives. When their understanding of their environment and the community risks and capacities are taken into account, the process of mapping out a community plan or strategy to cope with natural disasters is improved.

Some of the extraordinary success stories are showcased at the event jointly commemorating International Day for Disaster Reduction and ASEAN Day for Disaster Management. All of the women participants are first-hand witnesses to the destructive impacts of natural disasters in their countries including Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, and Thailand. Regardless of the scale of the natural wraths they had faced, these women have become proactive contributors and educators in their communities on DRR.

In a statement read on behalf of the women and girls in the event, Indonesia’s Anastasia Windi Mosa, 17, declares, “Resilience is our ability as women and girls to realise our rights and improve our wellbeing – and of our families and communities – despite shocks and uncertainty. Our resilience, however, is impaired when we are beset with poverty, when we are unable to participate, and when we are less able to claim our rights. But as women and girls, we continue to strive for resilience, using our knowledge and experience, in varied and innovative ways.”

Eduardo Klien, Regional Director of HelpAge International based in Chiangmai province said women and girls have shown their capacities as powerful actors in building community resilience. “But we have yet to change the common perception that they are weak. Whatever their age – as kids, adults, or older persons – they play remarkable roles to help their communities prepare for and recover from a disaster.

“We have to recognise that vulnerability to disasters and poverty is closely linked with gender inequality,” says Ines Smyth, Oxfam Senior Gender Advisor. “States must provide a specific focus on the disaster resilience of girls and women. The genuine participation and leadership of women and girls in relevant policy, planning and implementation processes and institutions alongside men and boys must be proactively sought.”

“The women participants come from disaster-prone areas with various backgrounds and ages with the youngest at 16 and oldest in her 70s. Yet, each has shown remarkable strength and resolve, using theirown individual abilities. They have been very active and visible in their communities, educating others about risk reduction and community empowerment. They are ordinary women having realised their extraordinary potential to effect change,” says Murphy.

The event is co-organized by the Thailand Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the AADMER Partnership Group (APG), the UN-ISDR and UN Thematic Working Group on Gender co-chaired by UN ESCAP and UN Women, in coordination with national civil society and other international organizations in Thailand, the Huairou Commission, and GIZ.

For more information and media enquiry:

Uamdao Noikorn, Regional Media Coordinator, Oxfam, +662 632 0033, +6681 855 3196

APG works in partnership with different stakeholders in the ASEAN to raise the voice of vulnerable groups and support regional disaster management and risk reduction. APG is composed of ChildFund International, HelpAge International, Mercy Malaysia, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children, and World Vision International.

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