Editorial spotlight: What does gender have to do with reducing and addressing disaster risk?


The fifth Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, taking place in Cancun, Mexico, from 24 – 26 May, is expected to convene more than 5,000 delegates, including Heads of State, Ministers, disaster experts, along with representatives from civil society organizations, United Nations, academia and technology sector, and the private sector. With natural disasters on the rise—445 million people were affected last year alone, according to UNISDR (the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction)—the Forum will focus on how to prevent disasters and reduce the loss of lives, as well as economic and infrastructure losses.

“Resilience cannot flourish in an environment where those affected most by disaster and climate risk are excluded from participation in prevention and mitigation efforts.”

Op-ed by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser. Read full op-ed»

Placing the issue of gender at the heart of discussions on disaster risk reduction at the Global Platform, UN Women will launch a new flagship programme on “Addressing the Gender Inequality of Risk and Promoting Women’s Leadership and Resilience”, in partnership with UNISDR. Read the statement delivered by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec at the Global Forum.

Disasters affect women, girls, boys and men differently. Women and girls are disproportionately exposed to risk, increased loss of livelihoods, security, and even lives, during and in the aftermath of disasters. During monsoon season in Bangladesh, for example, women and girls are disproportionately affected by flooding because many of them cannot swim or are unable to leave their homes due to cultural barriers. More women than men were killed by Ebola because they were the ones who washed and prepared the bodies of Ebola victims for burial, thereby exposing themselves to infection. Some consequences, such as gender-based violence against women and girls may not even be immediately visible, but have deep and damaging impact across generations. Get facts and figures here»

At the same time, women and girls play unique and critical roles in resilience-building, disaster response and recovery. They are often the first responders when disaster strikes, and have unique and intimate knowledge of the land and environmental resources. Yet, their skills and capacities in disaster risk reduction has been largely under-utilized.

In Viet Nam, women are leading disaster prevention and response

Huong Duong is a “communicator” on disaster risk reduction in My Thuy commune. Photo: UN Women Viet Nam/Hoang Hiep

When the Kien Giang river in Viet Nam flooded last year in the middle of the night, the damage to lives and livelihoods of the people of My Thuy commune was minimal, because of the preparations and adaptations. Read more»