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Women and girls – crucial actors in disaster risk reduction

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Ha Noi, 12 October 2012 – Representatives from local and international non-governmental organizations, the Government, the National Assembly, donor community and the United Nations, gathered in Ha Noi on 12 October to celebrate the role of women and girls in reducing disaster risks in Viet Nam.

The event, jointly organized by the Central Committee for Floods and Storm Control (CCFSS), the United Nations, the Viet Nam Women’s Union and the Disaster Management Working Group (DMWG) , was the culmination of a week of special activities happening in many provinces (see list attached) to mark this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction and the ASEAN Day for Disaster Management (13 October) under the theme: “Women and Girls – the [in] Visible Force of Resilience.”

Discussions at the event focused on recognising the strength of women and girls in reducing disaster risks. Messages from people on the ground and experiences of enabling women and girls to participate actively and visibly in reducing disaster risks in their homes and communities were shared. Participants highlighted the need to ensure that the voices of men and women, boys and girls, are included in discussions on managing and responding to disaster risks. They voiced strong support for the formal participation of women and girls in decision-making processes in this area.

The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) noted that women and girls were often the first to prepare their families for a disaster and the first to put communities back together in the aftermath. Ms Madhavi Malagoda Ariyabandu from UNISDR for the Asia and the Pacific said in her key note speech at the event: “Women are activists, social workers, law makers, role models, community leaders, teachers and mothers. They are invaluable in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation processes if real community resilience and significant reduction of disaster impacts are to be achieved.”

Ms Ariyabandu’s message was echoed by Mr Pham Sinh Huy, the country director of Save the Children. “Save the Children, together with the Joint Advocacy Network Initiative, recognizes the critical role of women and girl children in building safer and more resilient communities throughout Viet Nam,” said Mr Huy. “This year’s event again allows us to promote the active participation of women and girls in community actions for disaster risk reduction. Together, we must strive to empower women and girls as change agents, and to ensure societal recognition of their strength in protecting their families and communities from natural disasters.” Save the Children currently chairs the Disaster Management Working Group and is a member of the Joint Advocacy Network Initiative (JANI).

According to the latest UN-Oxfam policy brief on gender equality in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Viet Nam, women are clearly under-represented in local and sub-regional formal decision-making structures, such as in the Committee for Flood and Storm Control (CFSC) and Search and Rescue Committees. In some places, the Viet Nam Women's Union (VWU) participates in the meetings of the CFSC. However, as the VWU is not an official member of the CFSC, it is rarely involved in the Committee's decision-making. The role of the VWU is usually limited to accepting tasks related to food distribution and first aid.

The policy brief notes that women and girls should not be seen as victims. They are also crucial actors in disaster risk reduction. Their needs and knowledge should be used to inform the design, implementation and monitoring of disaster risk reduction policies. The UN and Oxfam paper recommends that the VWU should be engaged actively in decision-making at all levels of the Central, Provincial and District Committees  on Flood and Storm Control.

The Vice President of the Viet Nam Women’s Union, Ms Nguyen Thi Tuyet, agreed with the policy brief. “Formalized and systematic participation of women in crucial decision-making mechanisms can bring a reduction of losses and damages after disaster seasons, and can contribute to comprehensive preparedness of our communities,”  she noted while addressing the event. “I see this event as a great starting point which should not end “just” as a single-day celebration.”

Throughout the week, member organizations of the Disaster Management Working Group and the Joint Advocacy Network Initiative (JANI) have held various activities in disaster-prone provinces, including in the central coastal and Mekong delta regions, to celebrate the efforts of women and girls in reducing the risks of disasters.

For further information please contact:

Nguyen Thi Minh Huong, Viet Nam Women’s Union
Phone: +84  4 39719917; email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or

Eric Debert, DRM Program Manager, DIPECHO program, CARE International in Viet Nam
Phone: +84 (0)947 44 78 97; email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or

Eliska Gerthnerova, UN Women in Viet Nam
Phone: 84-4-39421495 (ext 123), email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Nguyen Viet Lan, UN Communication Team
Phone: 84-4-38224383 (ext 121), email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.