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Due to the frequency of natural disasters, this year, the Bureau of Women’s Affairs will celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 by focusing on preparing women for natural disasters.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: ‘Preparing Women for Disasters: A Gendered Approach to Natural Hazard Risk Reduction’ and will include an opening ceremony and workshop at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel with Dr. Barbara Carby, Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness (ODPEM) as guest speaker.
According to Faith Webster, Acting Executive Director of the Bureau, studies indicate that women and men are affected differently in disasters, as women and children tend to be more vulnerable, and in times of crisis, the most vulnerable becomes the most affected.
“We thought it fitting to explore and have discussions to see specifically how the natural disasters are impacting on men and women and to see how we can explore strategies to put in place to mitigate the negative effects,” she explained.
Mrs. Webster noted that women were more vulnerable based on their socially constructed roles as nurturers and caregivers, with primary responsibility for childcare, care of the elderly and the sick.
“On occasions of natural disasters, displacement occurs, which increases the burden for women with multiple roles in the home. In such settings, women are exposed to the risk of domestic violence and sexual abuse at shelters due to overcrowding or lack of adequate resources,” she informed.
“We want to recognize and highlight this aspect and to maybe see how we can have discussions with shelter managers and stakeholders in the process, to see how we can prepare women so that they can be protected from these types of abuses,” she added.
The workshop will involve the ODPEM, Mrs. Webster noted, because “we want to hear the ODPEM’s general perspective and then the Bureau will highlight a gendered perspective and try to integrate the two approaches”.
Continuing she emphasized, “what we are trying to do as our theme suggests is to mainstream gender in hazard risk reduction. As I said, we want to see how. a man is impacted by disaster versus a woman”.
The forum will allow people, who have actually been in shelters and situations of abuse, to share their experiences of what has happened to them, so that effective strategies can be developed and implemented. Additionally, it will create the opportunity for women from all levels of planning and decision-making, to be involved in the process.