CDEMA recognises how disasters impact women

Bridgetown, Barbados, October 16, 2012 (Barbados Advocate) - The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)is fully supportive of the United Nations ‘Step Up Campaign for Disaster Risk Reduction’ which seeks to increase awareness among the vulnerable groups.

So says its Deputy Executive Director, Liz Riley. Referring to theme for the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR), during a recent event at the United Nations House to commemorate the occasion, Riley pointed out that CDEMA has through the regional Comprehensive Disaster Management Agenda, begun to promote the mainstreaming of gender in disaster risk management. She said that to bring this to fruition, a gender working group has been established to provide policy and technical guidance.

“In the Caribbean, many women are involved in community groups that foster disaster preparedness. They are the ones who know the community and people who may need help in an emergency. Within their own families they are expected to make provisions for emergencies, and during emergencies can be found managing shelters and caring for the sick and injured. They are also in the forefront when it comes to building back what they have lost,” she said.

The Deputy Executive Director said that the IDDR 2012 provides an opportunity to raise global awareness about the need for increased emphasis on gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction, so that appropriate support can be given to woman and girls to improve their own resilience to disaster events and by extension, the resilience of their families and communities.

“It has been our experience in the Caribbean that disasters can have devastating effects on our key economic sectors and consequently the livelihoods of persons that depend on the. With between 22 and 44 percent of households in the CARICOM region being headed by women, disasters can result in the reduction of women’s share of productive activities in the informal
sectors, through direct damages to their means of production like small farms or equipment
associated with micro businesses, and in the formal sector when temporary unemployment may result from damages to formal production systems,” she explained.

Additionally, Riley noted that women who may not experience direct impacts may lose income indirectly, if they have to take time away from work to care for children when schools are closed because of damage or when they are being used as shelters. Moreover, she added that disaster can also increase the risks of girls dropping out of school to care for their younger siblings or to work to supplement the family income, and she noted, it could also lead to an increased risk of them becoming the victims of sexual violence.

“These issues support the case for integration of gender considerations into our disaster risk management approaches and interventions. They also highlight the need for greater participation of women and girls in disaster risk management to increase their resiliency to disasters and to protect during and after a disaster event,” she added.