Women are disproportionately impacted by disasters but they are rarely included in disaster planning. That must change.
On February 26, 1852, the HMS Birkenhead struck rocks off the coast of South Africa. There weren't enough lifeboats for the 643 people aboard, and Captain Robert Salmond immediately ordered the wives and children to board them while the men remained to try to save the ship. This act of chivalry would become a standard maritime code of conduct summed up by the famous phrase, "Women and children first."
And while there is logic behind it, this concept has helped to ingrain the notion that in times of crisis, women are primarily the helpless, not the helpers. As the #HerDay2015 Twitter discussions commemorating International Women's Day come to a close, just as the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction starts in Sendai, Japan, it seems an appropriate time to consider an important question: What is the role of women in reducing the risk of disaster?
Image: The home of Cleopa Itang, 62, was badly damaged by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November 2013. Cleopa shares her home with three teenage grandchildren. Copyright 2013 Jon Warren/World Vision. http://www.worldvision.org/news-stories-videos/typhoon-haiyan-response-philippines
Reynard Loki covers sustainability and CSR. He has written consumer-oriented features, exclusive interviews with CEOs, scholars and social entrepreneurs, and research-intensive think pieces across a wide array of environment- and sustainability-related topics. He is a co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio whose projects include a ringtone of the call of the endangered Philippine Eagle, created exclusively for the Daet New Media Festival in Camarines Norte, Philippines. He is also a contributing author to "Biomes and Ecosystems: An Encyclopedia" (Salem Press, 2013), a reference encyclopedia that illustrates the biology, geography, history and ecological importance of the world’s various biomes and ecosystems. He is a member of Farm Sanctuary, Sea Shepherd, Global Ethics Network and New York Pigeon Rescue Central.
KEYWORDS: Environment and Climate Change, Health, International Women's Day, disasters, United Nations Development Programme, gender studies, Women's Empowerment, Children International, Xylem, Xylem Watermark, community health, water, water safety, sanitation, Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction