Putting women on the frontline of disaster response

31 January 2018


Women quickly rebuilt fences so they could begin replanting food crops after Cyclone Pam devastated the island in 2015. You’re empowering women in agricultural communities to become more food secure, building their resilience to climate change and future disasters. Credit: Julia Loersch/Act for Peace

In Vanuatu, your support is helping women and girls to protect themselves and their communities from climate-related disasters.
May is a mother of five who has seen a cyclone tear through her village in Vanuatu almost every year of her life. 

She’s watched these and other disasters worsen with climate change, each year wreaking more damage on homes, crops and lives. And she’s seen how women and girls, who already face massive inequalities in Vanuatu, are being hardest hit.

But thanks to the Disaster Risk Reduction Program that you make possible, May is now teaching others in her community how to stay safe and resilient when a disaster such as a cyclone, earthquake or tsunami strikes.
That’s an important step in Vanuatu – one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and a country where women are usually shut out of decision-making.

In Vanuatu’s male-dominated society, May already breaks the mould by owning her own pre school. She says her new role as chairwoman is showing her the importance of contributing to other areas of her community.

May was one of the first female churchchampions to get involved with the Disaster Risk Reduction Program that Act for Peace’s local partners launched in 2016, thanks to your support. After her extensive training, she’s now teaching others and running practice drills in her community.

Now I can raise awareness, especially with my pre-school students and their parents on what to do, before, during and after a disaster.

Thanks to your support, women are now recognised as playing an important role in disaster preparedness. As women learn how to keep their communities safe during a disaster, they are being supported to take on new leadership roles within their local communities. Credit: Julia Loersch/Act for Peace

The program encourages community leaders to work more closely with woman, so we can all share responsibility for staying safe in a disaster and our response plan is successfully carried out.”

Around the world, women and girls suffer most during and after a disaster.  They die in greater numbers than boys and men, and the daily injustices they already face worsen.

Girls and women are more likely to drop out on school or miss out on livelihoods so they can care for their families. In the chaos after an emergency, they also have less access to food and water and are at higher risk of violence and exploitation.

Through the Disaster Risk Reduction program, you’re helping vulnerable people in Vanuatu – especially girls and women – to better prepare for disasters and the shocks of climate change.

And you’re supporting women to take a lead role in disaster planning, so they can break down the traditional attitudes that stop them from reaching their potential.

When asked how her self-belief has grown since being involved with the program, May referred to the biblical story of David and Goliath.

David doesn’t care about Goliath’s height or his role as a shepherd when he went to face him and kill him. He had faith that he can do it no matter what and at the end he killed the big giant Goliath.