No. 1008 - Conference agrees action plan to empower and protect women

No. 1008 - Conference agrees action plan to empower and protect women



17 November 2014
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For use of the information media
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Conference agrees action plan to empower and protect women

Progress towards Gender-Sensitive Weather and Climate Services

Geneva 17 November 2014 WMO - A conference organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has agreed a multi-partner action plan to reinforce the role of women in developing and using weather and climate services for the benefit of the entire community.

TheConference on Gender Dimensions of Weather and Climate Services,held from 5-7 November, considered how to embrace the specific vulnerabilities and strengths of women as part of a wider agenda to accelerate climate change adaptation efforts and increase disaster resilience of society as a whole.

 “Extreme weather events are increasing.  Floods, droughts and cyclones pose ever greater dangers for hundreds of millions of people around the world, and sea-level rise is a threat to the very existence of whole countries and regions,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a message to delegates. “Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to these risks, but they also have the greatest capacity to become champions of community resilience.”

“This Conference reflects your collective commitment to bring women to the center of climate mitigation and adaptation – and to better tailor climate information,” said Mr Ban Ki-Moon, who welcomed the “valuable guidance for practical action at international, national and local level.”

Knowledge and Action

The conference was attended by about 300 participants, ranging from Ministers and U.N. agency heads to local community leaders who brainstormed on how better to empower and protect both women and men with weather and climate services. Women and men access, use and respond to information differently. More gender-tailored forecasts and warnings would increase their benefit and impact for the whole community.

The event, co-sponsored by a wide range of partners including UNESCO, WHO, U.N. Women and UNISDR was successful in establishing in a more consolidated knowledge-base and an active cross-sectoral network to translate this knowledge into action.

“We must promote the education of women for sustainable development. Reducing climate vulnerability while advancing gender equality is both the right thing and the smart thing to do,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Educating women is educating a whole community, and this is also true for climate change education.”

Conference outcomes will feed into the post-2015 development agenda, the disaster risk reduction future framework, and other future climate action, and Beijing+20 platform on gender equality. In the closing ceremony, many participants made concrete proposals to put into practice in their own country or community.

The conference will help national meteorological and hydrological services around the world develop more gender-sensitive weather forecasts and climate services like seasonal outlooks. It is also meant to inject new dynamism into the drive to attract more female scientists.

“The ultimate criteria of success is that, a few years from now, we will not need another conference because gender aspects of weather and climate services will have been fully taken into account,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

Five main themes ran through the conference:


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 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. Television and radio forecasts are often delivered at times of the day when women are busy with family chores.

The conference was told that weather and climate information should move from technical jargon to messages that are understandable, accessible and actionable. More should be done to reach out to networks of women farmers, given that women often act on weather forecasts in a different way than men.


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. This is not always the case – in the United States of America, for instance, most of the casualties from lightning strikes are men because they are more “risk-seeking.” 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.

Their experience means that women are often the most powerful advocates of resilience and are the driving force behind recovery efforts.

More attention should be given to womens’ skills in disaster risk management and mitigation, the conference was told. There also needs to be better coordination between meteorological and hydrological services and disaster management authorities.



Women are often more vulnerable than men to the health consequences of extreme events, under-nutrition and climate-related diseases such as malaria. According to the World Health Organization, they are also more exposed to indoor air pollution, which kills 4.3 million people per year, because of the use of indoor cook stoves.

The conference agreed on the need for more gender disaggregated data on health impacts of climate variability and change. It encouraged meteorological services to engage more with the health community, especially female health actors. It suggested co-locating climate observing and information stations with health sentinel sites to maximize outreach. It also called for greater awareness that moving to a low carbon economy will improve public health, especially for women and children.


Women in developing countries can spend several hours per day fetching water and fuel, walking long distances with heavy burdens. For example, women and girls bear the main responsibility (71%) for collecting water in sub-Saharan Africa. Freshwater is however, becoming increasingly scarce. Within 15 years, nearly two billion people will live in areas of severe water scarcity.

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.


Women account for only 30 percent of meteorologists and hydrologists globally. The conference recommended increasing the visibility and attractiveness of careers in weather, climate and water.

It stressed the need to improve salaries and conditions and introduce more gender-sensitive recruitment and promotion policies. It said there should be more gender awareness in the teaching profession in order to encourage more girls to study science.

Notes for Editors: High-level segments of the conference have been webcast.



Weather, Climate and Water

For more information: Please contact Clare Nullis at +41 22 7308478 or 41 79 709 1397 or cnullis{at)


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