Gender-Sensitive Disaster Risk Reduction

Gender and a Leading Role for Women in Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a fundamental pillar of sustainable development and requires an “All of Society Inclusive Approach”. Building the resilience of nations and communities requires accelerating sustainable investments in social and economic development and the environment.

A gender perspective to DRR helps to focus attention on the distinct gender-specific capacities and vulnerabilities to prepare, confront, and recover from disasters.UNISDR’s programmatic work has focused on mainstreaming gender aspects in planning and implementing DRR policies, advocacy campaigns and awareness raising products globally. A UN-SWAP report submitted in 2014 revealed that UNISDR is substantially in line with both the average performance of the UN Secretariat and the performance of the UN System at large. Internally, UNISDR exceeds the requirements for gender balance across the organization's professional category and general service category with senior positions held by women.

Gender-Responsive Disaster Risk Reduction

Disasters affect men and women, and boys and girls, differently. In many contexts gender inequalities constrain the influence and control of women and girls over decisions governing their lives as well as their access to resources. Due to existing socio-economic conditions, cultural beliefs and traditional practices, women are more likely to be disproportionately affected by disasters, including increased loss of livelihoods, gender-based violence, and even loss of life during, and in the aftermath of, disasters. Hence, the empowerment of women is a critical ingredient in building disaster resilience.

Advocating for a stronger engagement and empowerment of women and gender mainstreaming in policy planning and implementation of disaster risk reduction programmes is central to UNISDR work. UNISDR facilitates and coordinates global and regional actions on disaster risk reduction and works closely with governments at national and local level to strengthen resilience. UNISDR delivers on its commitments on mainstreaming gender perspectives in its work by partnering and working closely with a diverse group of partners from the UN System, Civil Society, Private Sector, the Media and Parliamentarians. An example of successful mainstreaming efforts is the adoption of a landmark resolution by the Inter-Parliamentarian Union (IPU) in its 130th Assembly “Towards risk-resilient development: taking into consideration demographic trends and natural constraints” recognizing the importance of disaster risk reduction to the work of parliamentarians worldwide. In 2014, more than 40 countries have reported gender-inclusive approaches while planning and implementing DRR actions as reflected in National DRR Progress Reports submitted biennially to UNISDR.

In 2014, four Regional platforms on disaster risk reduction (DRR) organized by UNISDR with member states participation and in collaboration with regional partners in Africa, Asia and Pacific, Arab States and the Americas have included dedicated sessions on gender-sensitive DRR and the role of women in a post-2015 Framework for DRR and adopted commitments on the importance of a leading role for women in DRR.

View complete list of statements, outcomes and declarations of the regional conferences

Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) – a Decade of Advocacy on engendering DRR

The HFA, the global blueprint for disaster risk reduction 2005-2015, emphasized the importance of gender perspective for building resilience by calling for it to be “ integrated into all disaster risk management policies, plans and decision-making processes, including those related to risk assessment, early warning, information management and education and training." Consistent advocacy over the last ten years has resulted in increasing acknowledgement of the constructive role of women in disaster risk reduction; that women and girls – like men and boys – possess skills and capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from crisis, and to manage risk and build resilience. A number of countries continuously work to integrate gender dimensions into risk reduction and disaster response involving women and men actively in planning and implementation. Civil Society and women’s organisations are undertaking innovative, gender equitable, pro-poor work to reduce disaster risk and build resilience of communities.

At the normative level the international community has committed to a strong focus on gender equality and women’s rights in disaster risk reduction. These commitments are grounded in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as other international agreements such as HFA, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) resolutions 56/2 and resolution 58/2 on gender equality and the empowerment of women in natural disasters.

Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030

UNISDR programmatic work over the past 5 years has focused on mainstreaming gender aspects in planning and implementing DRR policies, advocacy campaigns and awareness raising products. The global, regional and national consultations for the development of post-2015 DRR agenda and successor arrangements for HFA took place between 2012-2014 and identified progress in engendering DRR and gaps in mainstreaming gender into DRR design, planning, resourcing and implementation. Taking the outcomes of the consultations forward, UNISDR organized a High Level Multi-stakeholder Partnership Dialogue on “Mobilizing Women’s Leadership for Disaster Risk Reduction” as part of the official intergovernmental segment of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, 14-18 March 2015.

Endorsed by the UN General Assembly following its adoption at the Third UN World Conference on Disasters Risk Reduction, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction recognizes the importance of gender-dimensions in DRR and calls for inclusiveness and engagement of all of society. Sendai Framework called for “a gender, age, disability and cultural perspective in all policies and practices; and the promotion of women and youth leadership; in this context, special attention should be paid to the improvement of organized voluntary work of citizens.”

Furthermore, Sendai Framework emphasized that “women and their participation are critical to effectively managing disaster risk and designing, resourcing and implementing gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction policies, plans and programmes; and adequate capacity building measures need to be taken to empower women for preparedness as well as build their capacity for alternate livelihood means in post-disaster situations.”

Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women in UNISDR

UNISDR facilitates mainstreaming gender perspectives in DRR by partnering and working closely with a diverse group of partners from Governments, Parliamentarians, UN System, Civil Society, Private Sector and the Media to support a gender-sensitive DRR agenda and the mobilization of women leadership for DRR. UNISDR adopted a Gender Policy in 2011 for gender mainstreaming in DRR to provide guidance to stakeholders and to promote gender equality and empowerment of women internally. To support governments and partners efforts on promoting gender in DRR, UNISDR developed a Twenty-Point Checklist on Gender-Sensitive DRR.

Internally and at corporate level, UNISDR fulfills its commitment on gender equality and the empowerment of women in the organization and incorporates gender into the biennial work planning process as well as UNISDR Strategic Framework 2012-2015. UNISDR ensures regular reporting on the UN System-Wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-SWAP), which tracks progress against 15 common-system performance indicators.

UNISDR facilitates and coordinates global and regional actions on DRR and works closely with governments at national and local level to strengthen resilience.

International Day for Disaster Reduction 2012

The 2012 International Day for Disaster Reduction sought to highlight the need for women and girls to be at the forefront of reducing risk and managing the world's response to natural hazards. IDDR 2012 was a global event with activities taking place from Afghanistan to Zambia. Over 80 countries celebrated the day with the theme "Women and Girls: the [in]Visible Force of Resilience". Over 5000 tweets using #iddr were seen over 27 million times.

“This year, on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, we want to shine a light on women and girls, and to recognize what they are already doing to build their communities' resilience in places where gender is not a barrier to their full participation in public life. We need to appreciate what women and girls are achieving by putting their experience and knowledge to good use in designing disaster plans and identifying areas for improvement in urban planning and early warning systems.

“More than 100 million women and girls are affected by disasters each year. They all have a right to be equipped for survival, and they all have a right to contribute to keeping their communities safe from harm.

“We need more women volunteering at the community level, and we need more women in senior positions as disaster managers. A world in which exposure to disaster is growing exponentially -- and causing ever-higher economic losses -- needs all the female help that it can get.”

– Margareta Wahlstrom, Project Syndicate opinion piece on the occasion of International Day for Disaster Reduction, 2012

Further resources on Gender in DRR can be found at:

International Day on DRR 2012 celebrated and promoted the “Women and Girls: the invisible Force for Resilience”

Publications on Gender-Sensitive DRR

Post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction (HFA2): report from 2013 global platform consultations
Background paper on the inclusion of gender in the post-2015 Framework for DRR
Towards post-2015 agenda for DRR (HFA2): Women as a force in resilience building, gender equality in DRR. Report of the consultations in Asia Pacific
Disaster risk reduction and gender: post 2015 gender equality in the future we want. Report of the consultations in Latin America and the Caribbean
UN System Sector Brief on Gender-Responsive DRR
Making disaster risk reduction gender-sensitive: policy and practical guidelines
UNISDR Gender Policy
Twenty-point checklist on Gender-Sensitive DRR

View more documents on Gender and DRR on PreventionWeb

The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction took place in 2015 The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction took place in 2015.
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