Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Antonia Loyzaga said women and children are most vulnerable in a post-disaster situation, citing the need to invest in gender inclusive development programs for their protection during a High-Level Panel on Accelerating Gender-Responsive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) on May 17 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

As part of a panel of international leaders and experts, Loyzaga discussed the impact of disasters to gender equality in the Philippines, the country’s policies to address any inequalities, and the intersectionality of vulnerability which is linked to women’s multiple roles and social identities.

“For inequality of women in the Philippines, we realize that loss of livelihood, shelter, access to safe water, sanitation, education, as well as capital for livelihoods continuing post-recovery, these are all part of the impacts that disasters have had on women in the country,” Loyzaga said. “Therefore, we need to address both mental health, as well as specific issues that are related to age and social status of women that are affected by disasters.”

Further, Loyzaga cited a 2022 report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) which stated that there are 1.83 million overseas Filipino workers, 60.2 percent of which were women.

This, she explained, meant that these women are exposed not just to hazards within the Philippines, but also in other countries where they work. The social impacts that they experience abroad also resonate to their families living in the Philippines.

The Environment Secretary cited two Philippine laws that recognize the unique vulnerability of women, and how the country invests in their resilience – Republic Act (RA) 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women, and RA 10121 or the Philippine DRR and Management Act of 2010.

The Magna Carta for Women guarantees women and the marginalized sector access to food security, shelter, credit, social services and protection, including the maintenance of their cultural identities. Meanwhile, the Philippine DRR and Management Act of 2010 highlights the integration of gender and social inclusion in all disaster management policies of the country.

In addition, Loyzaga shared that the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has been developing and updating its DRR mainstreaming framework, which includes a gender DRR checklist for all government programs and projects, while the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has implemented the collection of sex-disaggregated data and gender-related information in reporting.

However, she said these were just the “early days,” and policies and programs must be developed to address pressing issues, such as human trafficking of women and girls, who are most vulnerable post-disaster.

“We do need to invest both in the transdisciplinary understanding of vulnerability, particularly gender-based vulnerability, and the multiple roles that women play in order for us to understand how risk may cascade through those roles and address the vulnerability once and for all,” Loyzaga said.

The High-Level Panel focused on accelerating action for gender responsive disaster risk reduction, where ministers, experts, and international organization leaders discussed how the calls to action contained in the political declaration can be taken towards concrete solutions that can be integrated to the Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework.

Speakers included Vasiti Soko, Director, National Disaster Management Office, Fiji; Sima Sami Bahous, Executive Director, UN Women; Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR; Mwanahamisi Singano, Senior Global Policy Lead, Women's Environment & Development Organization; Ib Petersen, Deputy Executive Director, UN Population Fund; Bernice Van Bronkhorst, Global Director for Urban, Resilience and Land Global Practice, World Bank; Shawn Tupper, Deputy Minister of Public Safety of Canada; Sarah Hendricks, Director of the Policy, Programme and Intergovernmental Division at UN Women; and Beth Delaney, First Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian Division at Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Loyzaga was designated by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. as Head of the Philippine Delegation to the High-Level Meeting on the Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. ##