Legarda Tells ASEM: Empowering Women, Part of Addressing New Norm

June 5, 2014

Speaking at the plenary session of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Senator Loren Legarda today said that empowering women is part of the change that needs to be introduced in the face of the “new norm.”


“Women around the world and here in the Philippines do extraordinary things to contribute to societies’ growth. We need to heighten their participation in the planning and implementation of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) activities. It is about time that we usher in a new phase where women and girls are no longer just portrayed as victims but as heroes,” said Legarda in stressing the role of women in DRRM.


Legarda, the United Nations Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, said that women are more vulnerable to disasters as shown in several statistics. Women comprised 61% of the fatalities in the 2008 Myanmar cyclone; 67% in the Indian Ocean Tsunami in Banda, Aceh; and 95% in the Cyclone Gorky in Bangladesh.


Furthermore, women have distinct nutritional needs, which when unmet, make coping with disasters tougher for them. For instance, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, more than 3.5 million women and girls of reproductive age were affected, 250,000 of whom were pregnant and 169,000 were breastfeeding.


Women and girls displaced from their homes are also at greater risk of being subjected to sexual violence or victimized by human traffickers.


“Despite the greater risks they face, Filipino women doctors, nurses, paramedics and civilian volunteers were among the first day responders in the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan,” said Legarda.


“These realities tell us that we need to capacitate women not only as primary caregivers in times of disaster and economic distress, but also as part of the overall strategy on DRRM. To empower women is to reduce their vulnerability to disasters,” she stressed.


The Senator said that women’s practical needs, interests and concerns must be given due consideration in crafting policies and plans and in implementing programs and delivery of interventions.


“As women assume greater role in building a culture of disaster resilience, we must provide stronger support by protecting their needs and rights, capacitating them to be sufficient providers and allowing them to be decision-makers,” she said.


Legarda explained that there is a need to align the institutional mechanisms for DRRM with the policies that address gender issues, including livelihood development, women’s welfare and development, protection from violence and anti-trafficking in women.


“Women share the risks with everyone else, and as the statistics will show, the impacts of disasters have been more telling and more severe upon women. A changeover is needed in the way women are being involved in disaster risk reduction and management efforts.  This is not an option. It is the only way we can have an effective DRRM,” said Legarda.