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Dialogue with Mahbuba Nasreen on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction

1.       You have been active at WCDRR in Sendai in 2015. What do you think Mahbuba Nasreen is the biggest achievement of WCDRR in Sendai?

The biggest achievement of WCDDR at Sendai was the development of a clear model for reducing disaster risks. Through the Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) four priority areas have been identified. Two of the priority areas of SFDRR – ‘investing in DRR’ and ‘Build Back Better’ – are indicating increased involvement of people of different sectors, especially the private sector. Private sector investment is crucial as DRR involves huge investments, for which combined efforts by private and public agencies are required for effective management of disasters. Earlier private sectors contributions to support disaster affected areas has been perceived as philanthropy and not as investment. SFDRR will be instrumental addressing systematic investments in DRR by all the sectors.  

 


2.       The AMCDRRs push political will to reduce risks. Past AMCDRRs have defined the agenda for regional action. What are your key expectations from AMCDRR in Delhi?

 

The major task ahead of AMCDRR is to let the SFDRR move towards achieving its targets based on priority areas. In AMCDRR focus to be given around global, regional and national levels vertices cooperation and coordination; and identifying financial mechanisms for involving different stakeholders in investing in DRR. Each of the targets of SFDRR needs to be designed with time bound work plan and budgetary allocation from different sources. Alignment with other international drivers such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDG); National drivers for each country (e.g for Bangladesh the Seventh Five Year Plan) and development of new framework of action for regional and international cooperation are key priorities.

 

3.       Congratulation for the recent Mary Fran Myers Award to you. I think this an honour to all women in South Asia who have been contributing to reduce disaster risks. What are the gender and DRR issues and where you think more work is needed?

 

Gender and DRR issues are cross cutting and therefore, there is no boundary. Gender and DRR issues need to be mainstreamed through policy and legislation across the world. Women and men’s gender stereotypical activities during different phases of disasters require special attention. Strengthening women’s gender based indigenous knowledge and contributions yet to be accomplished. Budgetary allocation needs to be increased for gender based research such as men and women’s roles in DRR including housing/shelter; early warning dissemination; opportunities for alternative livelihoods; and development of leadership.

 

4.     You are an active member of Duryog Nivaran that promotes new and alternative thinking. You organized the first event titled Making Implementing SFDRR event in Dhaka University in 2015 within weeks after WCDRR. How best we can challenge the established wisdom on Gender and DRR?

 

In most culture women are considered as the ‘other’ and vulnerable. It has already been proved by the grounded theory (through my PhD dissertation in mid nineties) that although women are vulnerable to disasters due to their gender identity, they are the major contributors in building resilient society. Their continuous fortitudes and ingenuity related to disaster risk reduction need to be shared and acknowledged. While comparing gender specific roles of women and men it has been identified that in the agro-based economy both of them face challenges of continuing their livelihoods in disaster vulnerable areas. However, the changing patterns of employment often forces men to move elsewhere leaving women and family at home. Women headed households, both de-jure and de-facto, have been increasing in the disaster affected areas. These women have to shoulder many of males’ responsibilities during different phases of disasters since last four decades. These challenges are making women more resilient in taking up alternative livelihood opportunities. Adequate resources, gender friendly environment, market linkages and dissemination of good practices are required for sustainability of such contributions.

 

Let us not see women as victims but as active decision makers of development process.

 

Mahbuba Nasreen, PhD, Director & Professor, Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies (IDMVS), & Former Professor in Sociology, University of Dhaka was interviewed by Mihir R. Bhatt, who head All India Disaster Mitigation Institute. Both are Duryog Nivaran members.

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