22 Aug 2016

Pacific women's voices crucial for disaster management

6:16 pm on 22 August 2016

UN Women says Pacific women are often painted as victims first and decision makers second in the aftermath of disasters.

Shaline Nimal walks through what is left of the village of Rangorango on Efate island, Vanuatu.

Shaline Nimal walks through what is left of the village of Rangorango on Efate island, Vanuatu. She and the other women rely on income earned through selling their produce, all of which was destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Pam. Photo: UN Women/Ellie van Baaren

The region is often hit by natural disasters with major cyclones devastating Vanuatu and Fiji in the past 18 months.

Aleta Miller of the UN Women's Fiji office says women are more affected than men in the aftermath and should be included in disaster management planning.

UN Women’s Aleta Miller with Hon Parveen Bala Kumar and Suzanne Bent

UN Women’s Aleta Miller with Hon Parveen Bala Kumar (Fiji’s Minister of Local Government), and Suzanne Bent (First Secretary of Gender Equality for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Fiji) in Rakiraki at the handover of tents that act as a temporary market space while the new market house is being built. Photo: UN Women/Murray Lloyd

But she said aid agencies often cast women as victims first and risk ignoring what is truly needed.

"Women's groups are saying to me and to those that are listening, very strongly, 'we aren't just vulnerable' or 'we aren't vulnerable, or we don't want you to portray us as a vulnerable group, there are vulnerabilities, [and] vulnerabilities can be exacerbated but women and other groups are strong, they're resilient'."

Ms Miller said UN Women has been training governments, civil societies and NGOs on planning appropriately for genders in the event of a disaster.

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