Early warning systems save lives. Over the past 50 years, (1970-2019), a weather, climate or water-related disaster has occurred on average every day – killing 115 people and causing US$ 202 million in losses daily. The number of recorded disasters increased by a factor of five over that 50-year period, driven by human-induced climate change, more extreme weather events and improved reporting. But thanks to improved early warnings and disaster management, the number of deaths decreased almost three-fold over the same period.
But weather and climate-related disasters are not gender-neutral. Women are often placed at greater risk through a lack of timely and relevant information about imminent hazards and a lack of equal access to technology. Moreover, women’s voices are often absent from the design and decision-making around early warning systems, and as a result, do not have their needs adequately met.
Recent studies by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed that women-led early warning initiatives provide valuable insights for strengthening people-centered, inclusive, accessible, effective and sustainable early warning systems. Actions such as connecting more effectively with communities, facilitating community-based data collection, mainstreaming women-led warning programmes and delivering effective early warning messages were all found to be vital for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the context of climate disasters. WMO and UNDRR are now reviewing gender-responsive implementation of Target G of the Sendai Framework, as part of a wide range of activities aiming to address gender inequality in early warning systems and disaster risk.
“Well-designed disaster risk reduction and climate change initiatives that provide for the full and effective participation of women can advance substantive gender equality and the empowerment of women, while ensuring that sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and climate change objectives are achieved.” - Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Recommendation 37
This short, high-level side event marked World Meteorological Day 2022, and its theme of Early Warning and Early Action; Hydrometeorological and climate information for Disaster Risk Reduction, in the context of the ongoing sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66), and its theme of Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes. This event explored lessons learnt to date and opportunities for the future to achieve the empowerment of women in early warnings and early action to reduce disaster risk.