“Being prepared for disasters is the best strategy women can adapt in their family and business life, because disasters, like COVID-19, are now part of the “new normal,” according to Sandy Sanchez-Montano, chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Women.
Speaking at a recent webinar, Sanchez-Montano said disaster preparedness among women, whether running a business or employed in the workplace, cannot be underestimated because it can reduce fears and anxieties, mitigate their losses, and help put their families out of danger.
“Disaster resiliency should begin with us and all our families. Let’s make it a way of life because [we can say disasters are now part of the] new normal,” she said.
Quoting Czech model, TV host and philanthropist Petra Nemcova, Sanchez-Montano said: “We cannot stop natural disasters, but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.”
Sanchez-Montano also called for strengthening the role of women in disaster risk reduction management (DRRM), which has four key elements: prevention and mitigation, preparedness and response, and rehabilitation and recovery.
She said that under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, it is recognized that women and their participation are critical to effectively manage disaster risks.
This is because studies show that during disaster or not, women shoulder the bulk of the responsibilities of the family: organizing and keeping important things, ensuring food availability, caring for children, collecting water and fuel, going to the market, house cleaning and washing clothes, taking care of the sick, and getting capital for small business, among others.
Thus, women should be trained in disaster management, including in areas such as rescue, giving first aid, preparing go bags, hazard mapping, disease prevention, providing food and water and temporary shelter and other measures.
Disaster management, said Sanchez-Montano, the organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all the humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response, and recovery to lessen the impact of disasters.
The Sendai Framework also encourages capacity building measures to “empower women for preparedness as well as build their capacity to secure alternate means of livelihood in post-disaster situations.”
She noted that this holds true especially for women in the micro, small and medium enterprise sector, as they often lose their capital during times of crises, using it to provide for their family’s needs especially when the husband loses his job.
Sanchez-Montano, likewise, stressed the importance of ensuring the community protects women and female children because they are “among the hardest hit populations when disaster strikes.”
Women should be made aware of their rights during disasters as enshrined in Republic Act No. 9710, or the Magna Carta of Women. The Section 10 of the law states: Women have the right to protection and security in times of disasters, calamities, and other crisis situations especially in all phases of relief, recovery and rehabilitation, and construction efforts.
She added that the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (NDRRMP) 2020-2030 has undergone another updating this year to contribute to the country’s recovery efforts from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
The updated plan calls for localizing the national DRRM plan so the barangays can be proactive in gender mainstreaming in disaster risk management and in protecting women during disasters.
The Philippine Commission on Women is a government agency tasked to promote and protect the rights of Filipino women and girls.