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Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, 13 October 2012

Oct 12, 2012, 3:21 AM

Sustainability is the agenda for peace and development in the century ahead. Building resilience through personal safety and disaster risk reduction is essential for a more sustainable future. These are the conclusions of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio this year. The Rio+20 Outcome Document calls also for integrating a gender perspective into the design and implementation of all disaster reduction policies.
This is the theme of the 2012 International Day for Disaster Reduction -- “Women and Girls:  the (in) Visible Force of Resilience”.
Women are disproportionately affected by disasters, because of social roles, discrimination and poverty. Yet, their concerns are not sufficiently recognized. Nor do their role and capacities get the emphasis they require. We must strike a new balance in risk reduction. Discrimination is a violation of human rights – it is also bad policy.
For UNESCO, women and girls must be seen as powerful agents of change.  This is why we are committed to empowering girls and women through education – to allow them to take charge of their lives and those of their families and communities. Women must participate fully in planning and implementing all disaster risk reduction measures.
These are the goals guiding UNESCO’s Global Partnership on Women’s and Girls’ Education. In Haiti, we are helping young nurses to continue providing high quality services by setting up Mobile Multimedia Units and training women journalists. In Myanmar, we are working to reduce the vulnerability of women through the Myanmar Education Recovery Programme -- more than 1,500 female teachers have been trained as trainers on disaster risk reduction and act as focal points for school disaster management. In Pakistan, UNESCO is focusing on training women to provide better and safer teaching and learning environments in earthquake-affected schools. In Indonesia, we are helping women from communities around Borobudur to generate income after the eruptions of Mt. Merapi by training them on using traditional knowledge for tourism-related development.
We must build the concerns of girls and women into all disaster reduction. Their empowerment is one of the key paths towards more resilient societies. As the number and impact of disasters increase, girls and women must be more than visible – they must be actors and leaders for resilience. This is our message for the 2012 International Day for Disaster Reduction.