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Recognising the needs and interests of women and children in disasters

A website hosted and co-ordinated by Northumbria University is changing how women and children are considered in global disaster policy and practice. The Gender and Disaster Network (GDN) has been providing online resources since 1997 and is used daily by people whose job it is to plan for and respond to disasters around the world.

The site is supported in collaboration with UN agencies and the Swiss and US governments and its research-based resources and training materials are directly shaping gender-sensitive policies for global disaster planning.

“The aim of the GDN is to empower women and children to survive and then rebuild their lives following natural disasters. For too long the particular vulnerability of women and children was not recognised in disaster policy planning; nor was the pivotal role played by women in the survival of their families post-disaster,” explains Professor Maureen Fordham who co-ordinates the GDN from Northumbria University. “The GDN was set up to provide the evidence, knowledge, training and advocacy to change international policy and it has succeeded.”

The website is well used and receives around half a million hits per year . There are more than 1,000 registered members with membership drawn from every continent. Selected resources are translated into Urdu, Tamil, Creole, Portuguese, French and Spanish, among others.

The advocacy work of the GDN has resulted in international policy that increasingly considers the importance of gender in disaster management. For example, Fordham was one of a small team of global gender experts charged by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) with contributing a gender analysis to ‘Words into Action: A Guide for Implementing the Hyogo Framework’. The Hyogo Framework for Action is the 2005-2015 global policy framework for reducing disaster risk. Fordham is similarly involved in advising on its successor policy.

In 2009 the UN put out policy and practice guidelines entitled ‘Making Disaster Risk Reduction Gender-Sensitive’ to which Fordham contributed. The project to make women visible in disasters has now seen tangible results such as the UNECOSOC Commission on the Status of Women which adopted in 2011 a resolution on ‘mainstreaming gender equality and promoting empowerment of women in climate change policies and strategies.’

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned training based on GDN research to build awareness and understanding of gender issues in the disaster reduction policies of national governments and local NGOs in many parts of Asia. It commissioned Fordham to design a training manual for use in the UN regions of Africa, Arab States, Asia and Pacific, and Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean.

For the 2013 International Day for Disaster Reduction, GDN collaborated with Oxfam, Plan, Huairou Commission and UNISDR to create a Crowdmap showcasing 165 reports of women and girls active in disaster risk reduction around the world. This map was acknowledged by the organizers, UNISDR, as one of the key highlights of the Day.

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GDN Online

Crowdmap showcasing women and girls active in disaster risk reduction

 

 

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