October, 13 2012 08:52:01

Women tackle climate change


Women in the central province of Thanh Hoa plant casuarinas to prevent flooding. Vietnamese women and girls have contributed considerably in adapting to climate changes and reducing disaster risks. — VNA/VNS Photo Trung Dung
HA NOI (VNS)— Women and girls in Viet Nam should be recognised for their contributions to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, a conference heard yesterday.

Speaking at the conference on the occasion of International Day for Disaster Reduction, Nguyen Thi Tuyet, vice president of the Viet Nam Women's Union, said women took part in most disaster preparedness activities, including preparing food and drinks, harvesting, repairing houses, packing and finding safe places for valuables and having plans for evacuation.

However, limited understanding and stereotyping of women and their roles prevented them from gaining new skills to cope with natural disasters.

"Women have been seen as victims instead of crucial actors in disaster management. They have little chance to make decisions. Thus, households led by females tended to be those with the lowest resilience after natural disasters," Tuyet said.

Louise Chamberlain, United Nations Development Programme country director, said women and girls hardly voiced their needs or talked about their skills and experiences in protecting their families and communities in disaster situations.

"This is equally true in Viet Nam because each woman and man, girl or boy, living in flood areas has made significant contributions in raising awareness and building safer communities," she said.

According to United Nations-Oxfam's policy brief on gender equality, Vietnamese women were rarely involved in making decisions on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in local governments, such as the Committee for Flood and Storm Control and Search and Rescue Committees. They simply accepted tasks of food distribution and first aid.

In Viet Nam, a project on enhancing women's capacity to cope with natural disasters had been implemented in central Phu Yen and Binh Dinh provinces in 2010-11 by the Viet Nam Women's Union.

In Binh Dinh Province's coastal Phuoc Son Commune, a flood-prone area with 2,600 people living on aquaculture and agriculture, local women knew how to build riverside embankments, move livestock to higher places, store clean water and other necessities seven days before a storm and stamp out epidemics after floods.

Phan Thu Trang, a disseminator and head of Phuoc Son Commune's Women Union, said local women were more active and knew exactly what to do before, during and after floods and storms to regain their life. More and more husbands were agreeing to let their wives join disaster prevention work.

As a result, the women's union had become a permanent member of the provincial Committee for Flood and Storm Control and had had their own voice over natural disaster prevention and control, she said.

At the meeting, experts suggested basic skills, such as learning how to swim, should be boosted for those in affected areas.

The Viet Nam Women's Union and other women's organisations could be mobilised and co-ordinated to give support to humanitarian work through their networks. This would also boost the decision-making of women at all levels, they said.

Viet Nam should have a law that included provisions to ensure taking disaster risk reduction measures were the responsibility of both sexes, they said.

Figures from the United Nations showed that between 1990-2010, Viet Nam ranked sixth among countries suffering the biggest losses from disasters with 445 deaths and damages worth US$1.8 billion every year.

Seven storms, accompanied with prolonged heavy downpours, had occured since early this year, leaving about 200 dead and missing and causing total losses of VND4.4 trillion ($211 million). — VNS

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