Why are women the vulnerable group?
Often, women are not involved in the preparation of disaster plans from the beginning, based on traditions and norms that men are responsible for the protection of their family and of the wider community. Some of these norms are still in effect in traditional communities in the world, including in Suriname. In addition, the meetings and gatherings are mostly catered to and attended by men. The men have all the information on what steps to take when a disaster strikes, but the women are often not notified on how to act before, during and after a disaster.
“If we take an example of the life of a fisherman, where a disaster strikes the community during the time when the men go out to sea for weeks to fish. The consequences of the disaster would be bigger due to wrong actions that are committed during the disaster because the women are not informed on what actions to take. They have not been involved in the preparation of the disaster from the beginning, because they are perceived only in their role as caregivers in the community”, said Mr. Blinker..
In most traditional homes the roles are strongly defined, the woman takes care of the children and the household and the men ensure that there is money, do the hard work and bring the family to safety.
“Nowadays, both nationally and internationally, gender equity policies are being integrated in disaster risk reduction as seen in the preparation before a disaster as well as during and after. It is required that both men and women must be informed and involved in the disaster planning”, emphasizes Mr. Blinker.
In the hinterland of Suriname, where most of the traditional indigenous and tribal communities can be found, we see a positive development in the participation of women in leadership roles on various aspects. This includes the decision making and active participation in activities before, during and after a disaster. One such example is the composition of the various community disaster team trained and set up by the Suriname Red Cross which have at least 50% female members4.
Various involved organizations are working hard, to inform and involve the women in the preparation of disaster plans.
We can list more examples and situations, that show us that women are a more vulnerable group, during and after a natural disaster and that they are disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of climate change.
Therefore, on this day, let us also reflect on, and increase the awareness of, how disasters and climate change affect women. Involve as many women as possible in capacity building activities and assist them in their development to improve the position of women.
Empower WOMEN to save lives! Happy International Women's Day!
Mr. Humphrey Blinker, Coordinator for the Disaster and Crisis Management Programme of the Suriname Red Cross