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Sustainable Communities

Why we must engage women and children in disaster risk management

Monica Vidili's picture

students in Bislig Elementary School in Leyte Province, Philippines

Disasters hit the poorest the hardest. Poor people are not only more vulnerable to climate-related shocks, but they also have fewer resources to prevent, cope with, and adapt to disasters. The poor tend to receive less support from family, community and financial systems, and even have less access to social safety nets, as a recent World Bank report explains.

So, yes, disasters can discriminate on the same lines that societies discriminate against people.

Disasters tend to discriminate along generational and gender lines, as well. Several studies analyzing the impact of disasters have revealed that women and children have greater risks to their survival and recovery in the aftermath of natural disasters. The vulnerability of women and children to natural disasters can be further aggravated by other elements of discrimination such as race, poverty, and disability.

During the 2017 Hurricane Harvey in the U.S., many women—especially women of color—decided to not evacuate risk areas despite all the warnings. Why? All over the world, women and girls are overwhelmingly tasked, personally and professionally, with caring for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. So, simple life-saving decisions, like discerning whether to evacuate a disaster area, can become a difficult choice.

Poverty and gender norms shape basic survival capabilities as well. For example, according to an Oxfam survey, four times as many women than men were killed in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India during the 2004 tsunami, because men were taught how to swim and climb trees at young ages, while women were not.

Access to food and nutritional conditions also determine people’s capacities to cope with disasters. Mercy Corps reports that women and men tend to adopt different resilience strategies during droughts in the Sahel region of Africa—and reducing food intake is one of them. In South and Southeast Asia, 45% to 60% of women of reproductive age are below their normal weight, and 80% of pregnant women have iron deficiencies. During food shortages, women are more likely to suffer from malnutrition because they have specific nutritional needs while pregnant or breast feeding. Women also sometimes consume fewer calories to give priority to men and children.

Bait Sonya: How local solutions lead the way to empower Palestinian Women

Samantha Constant's picture


A few weeks ago, I hiked along a historic path through Arab ar-Rashayida -- a Bedouin village nestled in the central desert foothills of the West Bank – up to a steep cliff overlooking the Dead Sea (and beyond that the Jordan Valley).

After drinking sugary hot tea and taking in the nostalgic view, my tour guide Nidal and I were picked up by our hosts from the Khaima Abu Ismail to head back through the desert (by car) only to be greeted by truck loads of middle school-aged girls and boys.

Disability inclusion - ensuring equal access to urban opportunities for all

Sameh Wahba's picture
Stephan Gladieu/World Bank


Last week we saw two Ivorian women, Murielle Ahouré and Marie-Josée Ta Lou, fly past the finish line in a historic one-two finish in the 60 meters sprint at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England while Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba triumphed in a gritty 800 meters race. From the 60 meters to the 3000 meters, African women graced the podium or were not far from it, a testament to their athletic prowess.

Ліквідація правових бар'єрів у сфері жіночої зайнятості: Як це впливає на транспортно-логістичний сектор України?

Nato Kurshitashvili's picture
Roads in Ukraine

Зі 173 країн, які взяли участь у дослідженні під назвою Women, Business and the Law («Жінки, підприємництво і право»), близько 100 мають обмеження для не вагітних жінок та тих, що не годують, у виборі такої ж економічної діяльності, якою займаються чоловіки. Ці країни включають в себе досить багато країн колишнього Радянського Союзу, які, попри гендерно-нейтральні правові рамки, накладають такі правові обмеження, як заборона на працевлаштування жінок у певних галузях економіки та/або на роботу вночі.

Without empowered women, there is no future for rural areas

Francisco Obreque's picture
A beneficiary family from the commmunity of San José del Paredón (in Chuquisaca, Bolivia) celebrates the new irrigation system.
A beneficiary family from the commmunity of San José del Paredón in Bolivia celebrates the new irrigation system. Photo: Gabriela Orozco / World Bank. 

“When the company let us down, we only imposed a fine. We must be firm with companies and with vendors, otherwise they fail to fulfill their end. This is how to move the project forward”. This testimony impressed me a lot when I heard it from an indigenous woman in Bolivia, who was proud to be part of the steering committee and defend the interests of the community in the project.

 
Bolivia has a terrific success story to tell about encouraging rural women to take the lead in their communities and organizations and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Landslides, dumpsites, and waste pickers

Silpa Kaza's picture
Photo: alionabirukova / Shutterstock
Editorial credit: alionabirukova / Shutterstock.com

Last week, the world came to attention when the famous Hulene dumpsite in Maputo, Mozambique collapsed under heavy rains, killing at least 16 people.
 
Buried under piles of waste were homes and people from one of the most impoverished settlements in Mozambique. Many members of this community made a living collecting and selling recyclables from the dumpsite, which had served as the final disposal site for greater Maputo since the 1960s.
 
Sadly, this tragedy did not stand alone.
 
In 2017, landslides at waste dumps occurred at a shocking frequency, accounting for over 150 deaths and relocation of several hundreds in Colombo, Sri Lanka; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Conakry, Guinea; and Delhi, India.
 
Sixty million people live near the world’s 50 largest dumpsites, most in low and lower middle-income countries, though thousands of other risky sites also exist around the globe. Fifteen million people make a living scavenging waste and are of the population disproportionately affected when poorly or unplanned disposal sites fail to function in the midst of ever-growing refuse and inclement weather. Those most vulnerable to the landslides of dumps are those living on or by these waste disposal sites. They are the ones who often power their cities’ recycling system.

To close the gap in women’s land rights, we need to do a better job of measuring it

M. Mercedes Stickler's picture
A woman holding her land certificate in rural Zambia. © Jeremy Green
A woman holding her land certificate in rural Zambia. © Jeremy Green

There is broad global agreement that secure property rights help eradicate poverty and that securing women’s land rights reduces gender inequality. But our understanding remains strikingly limited when it comes to the extent to which women’s land rights are – or are not – secure and the impact of women’s tenure security (or lack thereof) on women’s empowerment.

This is true even in Africa, where the most studies have been published, due to shortcomings in both the quality and quantity of research on these questions.

From marginalization to inclusion: The story of the waste pickers in the West Bank

Amal Faltas's picture

About a decade ago, we started a project to improve solid waste management for waste pickers like Ibrahim and the 840,000 people in the southern West Bank governorates of Bethlehem and Hebron. One of the project components included the closure of the Yatta dumpsite, where illegally dumped and burned household waste was reaching a very unsanitary and hazardous level. 

But here came the challenge. 

While the closure of the dumpsite would mean putting an end to a serious environmental and public health problem, it was terrible news for the waste pickers and their families. It meant that the livelihoods of those families would come to an end. 

Women in rural roads: recommendations for a second generation of interventions

Karla Dominguez Gonzalez's picture
Photo: Guillermo Barrios del Valle/Flickr
In the Andean mountain range in the province of Arequipa, women can be found working on rural road maintenance projects.

Meanwhile, back in the capital, members of Peru’s local and national government, as well as representatives from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, gathered in Lima at the “Experiences of Women in Rural Roads” conference to discuss the role of women in the transport sector.

The event highlighted women’s participation in rural road construction and maintenance as a significant step toward gender equality: it gave participants a chance to discuss the impact of these projects, share lessons learned, and inform a Gender Action Plan for the ongoing Support to the Subnational Transport Program. Indigenous women from rural communities in in Arequipa, Junín, Huánuco, and the Amazon attended the event and emphasized the importance of these projects in the development of their communities and the role of these employment opportunities in their own lives, their self-esteem, and their aspirations for a better future.

Since 2001, the World Bank Group (WBG) and the Peruvian government have worked together to promote women’s participation in rural transport projects, expanding employment opportunities for women in rural areas. The Peru Decentralized Rural Transport Project has seen the female participation in rural road maintenance microenterprises reach almost 30%.

There are many positive effects of women’s participation in these projects.

Promoting social inclusion to achieve zero discrimination

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Climate-smart agriculture


At the climate talks last month in Warsaw, Poland, negotiators again delayed discussions around agriculture. The good news is that there are steps we can take now to make agriculture part of the solution, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte writes in a new blog post.

"Agriculture is the only sector that can not only mitigate, but also take carbon out of the atmosphere. It has the potential to substantially sequester global carbon dioxide emissions in the soils of croplands, grazing lands, and rangelands," Kyte writes. Importantly, she says, climate-smart agriculture techniques also improve crop yields, nutritional value, food security, and farmers' incomes, at the same time.

The potential is enormous, she writes. Read the full blog post.


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