REPORT: Mind the Gap – New Disasters Agreement Must be More Proactive on Gender

Mar 9th, 2014 | By | Category: Disasters and Climate Change, News

sudan-woman-drm-panosTo mark International Women’s Day, 8th March, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and Overseas Development Institute (ODI) are highlighting the need for specific gender-related measures to be included in the new global framework to reduce disaster risk.

The lack of attention to, and misunderstanding of, gender inequality prevent the effective reduction of disaster risks. This problem should be addressed in the successor agreement to the Hyogo Framework for Action – the ‘HFA2’.

A new briefing by Dr Virginie Le Masson and Lara Langston, How should the new international disaster framework address gender equality? argues that in spite of many international policy commitments to address gender inequality, such inequality remains pervasive.  Policies are not automatically followed through in practice.  The best grassroots practices do not necessarily influence policies.

Disasters can cause higher mortality rates for women than men. Women and girls are affected by gender-based violence before, during and after disasters. Disasters also exacerbate the wage gap between men and women, and among women of different ethnicities – as shown, for example, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The world’s governments are due to agree the second Hyogo Framework for Action in 2015 in Sendai, Japan.  The HFA2 will include specific governmental commitments on monitoring and evaluation. According to Dr Le Masson and Ms Langston, this provides an important opportunity to mainstream gender equality effectively in disaster risk reduction (DRR).

For this to happen, say the authors, policy-makers should not simply see women and girls as a homogenous, vulnerable group. They must recognise and empower existing grassroots activities where both women and men, girls and boys, have distinct roles and capacities. Such a gender-sensitive approach will enhance communities’ capacities to deal with disaster risks.

There is a real opportunity to enable strong, gender-sensitive approaches that are already working effectively at the grassroots to flourish and grow,” said Dr Le Masson. “The mid-term review of the HFA emphasises that external institutions should facilitate – rather than control – the development of disaster risk reduction (DRR) practices from the bottom-up. Governments must act on this finding when they develop the next international disaster reduction framework”.

HFA2 should also learn from the mistakes of the first Hyogo Framework period, when many governments and organisations assumed that gender equality was achieved in their countries, when in practice, it was not.

The HFA2 should require independent institutions to monitor and evaluate DRR practice, rather than governments themselves. National monitoring processes should better reflect grassroots DRR practices, and should systematically collect gender-disaggregated data of disaster losses, vulnerabilities and capacities,” said Dr Le Masson.

Sam Bickersteth, Chief Executive of CDKN, said: “On this International Women’s Day, we recognise the importance of women as leaders in their communities, organisations and countries, in coping with climate disasters. They are reducing disaster risks, and securing the resources to make disaster risk reduction more effective in the future.”

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