The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, UNISDR, observes today, 12th of October, the International Day for Disaster Reduction 2012. Officially it is on the 13th of October, but it is celebrated one day earlier as this year it falls on Saturday.
The theme for this year, “Women and Girls, the (in)Visible Force of Resilience”, spotlights the key role that girls and women play in times of disaster, hazard risk and climate change by making their communities more resilient and helping to a better risk prevention and an earlier recovery. Commemorated in more than 80 countries, the International Day is the most widely observed day for mobilizing and raising awareness of disaster risk reduction.
Women and girls represent about two-thirds of the world's poor and around 43 percent of the farmers in developing countries. Women still have less access to productive resources and opportunities than men. This means that women face particular challenges when natural disasters and climate change affect agriculture in rural areas. Many studies suggest that women suffer more from the impacts of natural disasters than their male counterpart in societies with high gender inequality. As a consequence of their precarious socioeconomic status, women and girls are more vulnerable: Their economic recovery after a disaster takes longer than men's, their health is more endangered and mortality rates among them are higher.
The future prosperity of the world depends on the human capacity to reduce risk, improve resilience to natural hazards and cope with climate change. These risks have uneven impact throughout different regions, ages, income groups and sexes. They exacerbate inequality, and therefore gender issues have to be brought to the fore if they are to be managed in an effective way.
The intention of the UNISDR is not to depict women and girls as passive victims, but to raise awareness of the importance of women as active agents to build resilience and to empower them.
UNISDR underline the need to be conscious of women as activists, lawmakers, social workers, role models, community leaders, teachers and mothers. Women are indispensible to the prevention and mitigation of risk, and the recovery from climate change, if real community resilience is to be achieved. Women must always be part of policy, planning and implementation processes as their experience, knowledge and expertise is critical.
The UNISDR is organizing and promoting events all around the world to celebrate this day. It is collecting and sharing stories on their website about women and girls who are breaking down the barriers and advancing the agenda, as well as stories about the men and boys who are supporting their efforts and contributing to the effort to empower women and girls in disaster risk reduction.
As Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, assesses: “If we are going to see real development in the world then our best investment is women”.
Ana Isabel Martínez Molina