On International Women’s Day, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) calls for action to strengthen the role of women in developing and using weather, water and climate services. It is also stepping up efforts to encourage more women to choose a career in meteorology and hydrology, and thus make a vital contribution to the safety and well-being of society.
To mark the occasion, WMO is launching the Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women website which features a special section on Women in Weather, Water and Climate. The profiles of prominent female meteorologists and hydrologists are presented, including their words of advice to young women embarking on a scientific career.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It” – highlights the commemoration of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a visionary roadmap for women's rights and empowerment, twenty years after its adoption.
The year 2015 represents a key opportunity for progress in ensuring that women’s empowerment is placed at the heart of the global agenda. In March, the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan will adopt a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction. In September, the UN will decide upon the post-2015 sustainable development goals. In November, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will adopt a new climate change agreement in Paris. In May, the World Meteorological Congress will reinforce the contribution of WMO to this important global agenda.
“As we build weather and climate resilient societies, we absolutely require the critical leadership and involvement of women. We need them as scientific researchers, as key actors in disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation and mitigation, as agents of change,” said WMO Assistant-Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova.
“We need to invest in empowering women,” she said. “And we must start by expanding women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and developing gender equality strategies in educational institutions and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services,” said Dr Manaenkova.
UN Interagency Women’s Leadership Programme
In a new initiative this year, WMO is playing a pioneering role in the UN Interagency Women’s Leadership Programme to strengthen women’s leadership in diplomacy, particularly in weather and climate contexts.
Created by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the programme is supported by WMO, UN Women, and the Secretariat of the UNFCCC. It is designed to develop and promote the leadership skills of women in government, especially those working in multilateral contexts such as the United Nations system.
Following the success of the WMO Conference on the Gender Dimensions of Weather and Climate Services in November 2014, the Women’s Leadership Programme will be inaugurated at a special training workshop at the World Meteorological Congress in May 2015. Congress will also have a dedicated Gender Day to further promote gender equality.
The Conference on the Gender Dimensions of Weather and Climate Services was a landmark international forum on how to make weather and climate services more gender-sensitive so that women and men can make equally informed decisions with respect to food security, disaster risk reduction, water resources management, and public health.
The effects of weather and climate are not always gender-neutral. Women and men are often affected differently by weather and climate impacts, and therefore need gender-sensitive information and services.
The following are a few examples of issues and actions highlighted at the Conference, which illustrate the distinct ways in which women are affected in these weather- and climate-sensitive sectors.
- Disaster Risk Reduction: In many parts of the world, women and children suffer disproportionately from natural disasters, especially if they are less mobile and have less access to communications than men. A better understanding of how women and men access and use hazard warnings would lead to improved impact-based forecasts and so help reduce casualties. Women are often the most powerful advocates of resilience and are the driving force behind recovery efforts. More attention should be given to women’s skills in disaster risk management and mitigation.
- Health: Women are often more vulnerable than men to the health consequences of extreme events, under-nutrition, air pollution and climate-related diseases such as malaria. More gender-disaggregated data is needed on health impacts of climate variability and change. The Conference encouraged meteorological services to engage more with the health community, especially female health actors. It also called for greater awareness that moving to a low carbon economy will improve public health, especially for women and children.
- Water: Huge gender imbalances and inequities exist in water and climate change - in terms of the distribution of burdens and benefits; in terms of rights and voice; in terms of information and knowledge. Many countries suffer from lack of human capacity for sound water management. Empowering, educating and training women, and using their local knowledge, would help fill this skills gap, promote more effective water provision and policy and integrated water management, and so contribute to resilience.
- Agriculture and Food Security: In many developing countries, women are responsible for more than half the food production but rarely have equal access to resources and information. A World Food Programme survey of 95 countries found that only 5 percent of agricultural extension services are directed to women. There are further 300 million fewer women with mobile phones than men, meaning that weather forecasts and alerts delivered by mobile technology often don’t reach those who need them most. More should be done to reach out to networks of women farmers.
- Careers in Weather, Water and Climate: Women account for only 30 percent of meteorologists and hydrologists. Efforts should be made to increase the visibility and attractiveness and sustainability of careers for women in weather, climate and water. There should be more gender awareness in the teaching profession in order to encourage more girls to study science. National and international endeavours should be integrated in promoting and supporting women in science at all levels of their careers.
The full report of the Conference will be published in March on the WMO Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women website.