UN ISDR – International Day for Disaster Reduction Reception - Women and Girls – the (in)Visible Force of Resilience

Published: 12 October 2012

IFRC contribution
Under Secretary General, Governance & Management Services,
Malika Aït-Mohamed Parent

at the Reception of the International Day for Disaster Reduction
Geneva, 12 October 2012, 18:00-18:40

On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, I thank UNISDR – our long-term partner for disaster risk reduction – for the invitation and the organisation of this event to highlight the role played by women & girls in building resilience at the community level.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It sounds to be impossible to pay fairness to this subject in few minutes, but let’s try to focus on the positive side and then on few open questions.

Reflecting on the theme of the Day ”Women and Girls; the In-Visible Force of Resilience”, it led me to think about their contribution to local development. Their force in building resilience is often invisible, but actually women and girls are the driving force of the Red Cross Red Crescent work on the ground. 

According to a survey conducted in preparation for our Pan African Conference taking place in Addis Ababa next week, in Africa 46% of our African National Societies have a majority of female volunteers , who play a key role in supporting vulnerable people and reducing their vulnerability. 

Invaluable is the women and girls’ role in Red Cross Red Crescent work, which makes considerable contribution to local development.

In terms of disaster risk reduction as we celebrate its international day today, let me remind you that IFRC has three main strategies:

  • to strengthen the systems and capacities for a timely and effective response at all levels;
  • to promote activities and actions that mitigate the adverse effects of hazards; and
  • to protect development projects such as health facilities from the impact of disasters.

Building resilience and reducing vulnerabilty are two sides of a coin. 

From a wide range of success stories (that can be found on the IFRC’s Web site ), let me take one example to illustrate and pay tribute to women’s active involvement in saving lives through risk reduction.

In India, as part of its risk reduction program, the Indian Red Cross Society has installed platforms, raised tube wells, rivulet diversions and warehouses in flood-prone areas of the state of Bihar.  In total, some 15 communities in Bihar are covered under the risk reduction inititiave and the state has significantly scaled up its disaster management efforts with the support from the Red Cross.  When being asked about the key to the program’s success, the Indian Red Cross said:

”it lies not only in the structures that are installed but also in the community’s awareness about disaster mitigation...
The program was born for the communities.  Local communities, especially women, and their active involvement was the key.  They were forming committees, conducting disaster monitoring and assessment activities, identifying local coping measures and all of this have had a very positivie impact on vulnerable groups”.

I think this story says by itself about women and girls’ ”visible” force of resilience.

Before closing my comments, I would like to raise few quesitons.

If women and girls  are invisible, why are they? Is it normal more than 50% of world population can be invisible today in 2012?

We have explored in our IFRC Gender Strategy process the reasons behind their invisibility and required action by humanitarians and UN.

What does this invisibility/inequality cost?
What if turned around would it create?

As I would not like to further delay the starting of the reception with more words, let me stop here and give the floor back to the Master of Ceremonies.

Thank you.