Global Resources

Women2000 and Beyond: Making Risky Environments Safer: Women Building Sustainable and Disaster-Resilient Environments

Publisher: United Nations [UN] Division for the Advancement of Women
Publication Date: Apr 2004
When women and men confront natural or environmental disasters such as forest fires, droughts, earthquake and volcanic eruption, their responses tend to mirror their role and position in society. Accounts of disaster situations worldwide show that responsibilities follow traditional gender roles: women's work carries over from traditional tasks in the household while men take on leadership positions. In addition, women and girls are often viewed in these situations as victims in special need of emergency relief. This shows a lack of understanding of their capacities and resources as environmental and social change agents. The current issue of this newsletter addresses gender dynamics in disaster reduction and sustainable development. It gives a gender analysis of the increasing risks and the rising toll of disasters and discusses the notions of risk and physical and social vulnerability. Early warnings and risk reducing approaches that enhance women's disaster resilience are also analysed. The issue also draws important links between women's empowerment and sustainable development and disaster reduction.

Several recommendations are made, namely:
- Making policies for disaster reduction more consultative and inclusive;
- Ensuring that gender perspectives are made explicit in work on natural disasters;
- Conducting research to develop a better understanding of the linkages between gender, environmental management and disaster reduction and its policy implications;
- Making experiences and good practices easily available to policy makers and administrators;
- Developing generic yet easily adaptable guidelines on the types of gender-specific questions that should be raised in relation to risk assessment and emergency response;
- Collecting sex-disaggregated data in all areas of work on natural disasters.
When women and men confront natural or environmental disasters such as forest fires, droughts, earthquake and volcanic eruption, their responses tend to mirror their role and position in society. Accounts of disaster situations worldwide show that responsibilities follow traditional gender roles: women's work carries over from traditional tasks in the household while men take on leadership positions. In addition, women and girls are often viewed in these situations as victims in special need of emergency relief. This shows a lack of understanding of their capacities and resources as environmental and social change agents. The current issue of this newsletter addresses gender dynamics in disaster reduction and sustainable development. It gives a gender analysis of the increasing risks and the rising toll of disasters and discusses the notions of risk and physical and social vulnerability. Early warnings and risk reducing approaches that enhance women's disaster resilience are also analysed. The issue also draws important links between women's empowerment and sustainable development and disaster reduction.

Several recommendations are made, namely:
- Making policies for disaster reduction more consultative and inclusive;
- Ensuring that gender perspectives are made explicit in work on natural disasters;
- Conducting research to develop a better understanding of the linkages between gender, environmental management and disaster reduction and its policy implications;
- Making experiences and good practices easily available to policy makers and administrators;
- Developing generic yet easily adaptable guidelines on the types of gender-specific questions that should be raised in relation to risk assessment and emergency response;
- Collecting sex-disaggregated data in all areas of work on natural disasters.