Thursday, 19 March 2015

Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR 2015)

Just returned from the above UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction - where I represented Duryog Nivaran, and had two speaking slots: as a panellist at the launch of the Global Assessment Report 2015 and at the Ministerial Roundtable on Governing Disaster Risk: overcoming challenges.  Also worked closely with the Women's Major Group, coordinated by WEDO.  Interesting as UN conferences go, but significant, since its the first of three that are aiming to frame the post-2015 world development agenda - what the world is going to do about disasters, sustainable development and climate. Many interesting thoughts to share... but for now, here is my intervention at the Ministerial Round Table chaired by Ms Maria del Pilar Cornejo, Minister Secretary for Risk Management, Ecuador. 
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at the roundtable with the African Union President on my left and the City of Istanbul on my right.
Photo by Ramona Miranda
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, I represent Duryog Nivaran, South Asian civil society network of people and organisations committed to promoting disaster risk reduction  in what is the world’s most disaster prone region.    

Since our inception in 1995, we have been working directly with people affected by disasters and organisations that represent them, so we welcome the macro level policy and institutional reforms that have been put into place during the period of the HFA., and the commitment to multistakeholder participation that has been evident in the statements of the delegates to this round table.  A little disappointed that there are no South Asian member states represented here.

We would like to reiterate that the way forward is definitely to strengthen  local governance processes. In addition to the more dramatic disaster events, there are the extensive risk factors – the droughts, the floods, the landslides, which are highly localised, but which seriously affect the lives of poor women, men and children,  and these are trending upwards.  Identifying and managing these risks is best done at a local level,  but in many South Asian countries,  local government institutions often don’t have the capacity, the confidence or the power to do this. 

In this context Duryog Nivaran would like to urge member states to:

-INVEST in enabling local government to assess the potential for disaster loss and  damage at local level.  These assessments need to be integrated across sectors, and equally important, they must become an integral component of local development plans.  There will be two gains from this: one is the gain to the local authorities but the other is that the  aggregation of this information could improve the quality of national level data sets

- ENCOURAGE local governments to dialogue with their constituencies.  Local community organisations can sometimes be captured by the more powerful sections of the communities, so it’s important for local government to talk to the more marginalised members of the communities and to women.    There is a lot of evidence to show that women have a good understanding of disaster risk, and capacity to mitigate this risk and that it is important to include them in all DRR activity.

- PROVIDE RESOURCES for local governments and other data collection agencies to collect and analyse data in a disaggregated manner

-FINALLY, and this is really important, ensure that national and global political considerations do not undermine/override the efforts of local governments to deal with local risks. South Asia is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world – and we need to mediate our growth with a clear understanding of the risks at the local level.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Gender and Transport - my International Women's Day thought

Given that it is International Women’s Day, it is probably a good time to reflect on how the transport sector does (or does not) engage with women’s transport needs.  Of course this is not a new subject,  but despite efforts by several women and men, notably in the International Forum for Rural Transport and Development (IFRTD), the World Bank’s SSATP, and other networks interested in bringing some equity into the transport sector, the problem still remains.   Women’s issues, and particularly the issues of  poor urban and rural women,  remain marginal to transport sector planning.  It is not to say that the sector has not progressed.  When, as  the IFRTD’s first Executive Secretary, I presented the Balancing the Load proposal to what was then DFID’s Knowledge and Research (KAR) funding arm in 1996,  I am told the (male) engineers reviewing the proposals laughed at our audacity and dismissed the proposal with hardly a glance. Balancing the Load was subsequently funded by DFID, and  became one of the pioneering pieces of work on gender and transport, followed in the early 1990s and early 2000s with several other initiatives, notably under the patronage of the World Bank and other organisations.  Gender arrived on  the transport agenda.   In 2015, 20 years after the Beijing Conference on women, we should be going beyond Balancing the Load and ensuring that the sector pays considerably more attention to   gender issues in developing transport infrastructure and services.

In 1996,  the focus was on the unequal transport burden between women and men.   Today there are many other issues that we need to consider.

Transport interventions  continue to be based on partial understanding of the difference in trip patterns of women and men.  This is partly because the transport provision rarely takes the care economy into account, focusing its analysis (and resulting policy and programmatic interventions) on the market economy, and conventional, gender insensitive conceptions of what is considered ‘work’. 

The care economy, which involves unpaid household work and  work taking care of other members of the family is dominated by women and girls and is hugely undervalued.  Men do not often have to combine gainful employment with care responsibilities, but to separate the two is to somehow ignore the realities of women’s transport patterns and needs and affects route planning,  provision of ‘off-peak services’ (that in itself a gendered term) and could account for the inability of the transport sector’s analytical frameworks to identify latent transport demand.  

Ignoring the care economy has consequences for how work and living spaces are planned,  providing different challenges to women and to men. Spatial planning also affects the balance between individual and public transport.  Individual modes of transport (cars, motorcycles, bicycles etc) are largely owned by men.   The limited reliability and affordability of public transport is a bigger issue for women.

The whole Road Safety Agenda is also very gendered.  For instance it focuses on road safety and the victims, when it could be broadened to a transport  safety conversation that takes into account safety of other modes (water transport) and other infrastructure (e.g. paths, river crossings) , the impact on care givers, and also bring into the equation issues such as sexual harassment. 

There are issues also in the fact that employment in the transport sector is highly gendered, with few women in positions of decision making. Women can benefit from transport infrastructure projects through involvement in construction activities and receipt of equal pay for equal work. For women providing transport services, there is a need for greater consideration of worker rights, for providing maternity benefits and providing flexible working hours, for reducing sexual harassment and sex stereotyping and  fostering participation in trade unions.  Organisations like the International Transport Workers Federation, have been advocating on these issues.

The above is just a tip of the iceberg.. there are serious issues about women’s participation in, and women’s ability to benefit from, the improvements in transport infrastructure, and it’s about time the transport sector gave serious thought to how they can be addressed.