If there’s a lesson to learn from Vanuatu’s relief response following Tropical Cyclone Pam, it’s the inclusion of a gender perspective in disaster management from the very start, says Esron Marck Vano of Vanuatu’s Department of Women.
‘Disasters affect men and women differently and we need to understand the diverse needs and priorities of the various groups to be able to respond effectively to the realities on the ground. For Vanuatu, the initial rapid disaster assessment did not reflect everyone’s perspective hence the result was a blanket distribution of supplies’ reflects Mr Vano.
Mr Vano recalls that food packages consisted of rice, tinned fish, noodles, salt, sugar and crackers and were meant for the entire population not taking into account the specific needs of groups like children of ages 0-5 years and pregnant women.
“In the shelters, there were no proper lightings for the toilets and bathrooms making it risky for girls and women to access those areas in the night.”In specific disaster situations, “recognizing the different needs and priorities of men and women in shelter and provision of basic services in post disaster situations will greatly help governments and aid/development agencies design programmes that respond to the needs of all, while promoting gender equality and human development for both men and women.”
16 Days – 16 Stories of Gender Progress in the Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and The Pacific Community who are sharing stories of successful gender programs across the region and highlighting the regional policies that guide them.
The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration has a specific priority on gender responsive government program and policies calls for gender issues to be considered across all sectors such as climate change and disaster response. Related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes.
The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progress noted Vanuatu’s progress in this area as follows: finalised Gender Equality Policy and gender mainstreaming of sector policies such as climate change. Sex disaggregated data available for Census, Household Surveys and National Disability Survey.