Speech at 2018 APFSD/HLPF side event - Towards resilient and sustainable societies: Health and well-being of women and young people

Delivered at UNCC, Meeting Room F in Bangkok, Thailand

The Government of Bangladesh, Government of Thailand, UNFPA Asia and the Pacific Regional Office

Your Excellency, Mrs. Saida Muna Tasneem,

Distinguished guests,

This partnership to convene a dialogue ‘Towards resilient and sustainable societies: Health and well-being of women and young people’ is timely. Women and children end up bearing more severely the brunt of disasters and crises. Not only is their access to healthcare and education made difficult, they are also more likely to become victims of violence and fall into poverty than men.

Most alarming were the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami - in Aceh Indonesia - and the Nepal Earthquake in 2015. 77 per cent and 55 per cent of deaths resulting from these disasters were women 1. In the aftermath of the Nepali earthquake, some 1,500 women every month faced difficulties accessing the healthcare services resulting in often life-threatening consequences 2. When Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyarwaddy Delta in Myanmar in 2008, some 90 per cent of unmarried women and a 100 per cent of married women lost their main source of income 3. Evidence further indicates that

  • 60 per cent of the world’s preventable maternal deaths take place in areas blighted by conflict, displacement and natural disasters 4.
  • Girls are two and a half times more likely to be out of school in conflict-affected countries than their counterparts in conflict-free countries 5.

In the face of these challenges, we need strategic approaches and concerted action.

We need women at the heart of our effort to build our resilience. Their participation, leadership and voice should be promoted in disaster risk reduction processes. Good examples of initiatives taken to encourage women’s leadership in disaster risk reduction include a Government decree in Viet Nam giving the Women’s Union an official space in decision-making bodies. This helped save lives in the 2013 storm season by involving women in disaster planning and the identification of dangerous areas through local flood risk mapping. 6 In the Philippines, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 emphasized a whole-of-society approach to all aspects of disaster risk reduction, including decision-making. It outlined climate change measures that are gender-responsive and sensitive to indigenous knowledge.7

Better access to sexual and reproductive health, offers a pathway to recovery, risk reduction and resilience whose impact extend beyond women and girls, to families, societies and economies. Quality health care, combined with targeted programmes helps confront inequalities throughout society which can support a broader development agenda.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), are an invaluable asset, they can also mitigate the impact of disasters. Youth are at the cutting edge of applying ICTs which backed by innovation and creativity enhances efficiency and outreach, while significantly improving capacity to reach those furthest behind first. ICTs can enable the collection of information and data needed to identify the precise needs and priorities of women and young people. They can also help design and implement more inclusive disaster risk management strategies and systems, and accelerate progress towards universal health coverage. ICTs can also support the diversification of sources of gender-responsive financing to build strong and resilient institutions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The challenges we face are considerable, but so are the opportunities. I am looking forward to working with all of you to support the development of better policies and interventions benefiting women and youth, and promoting greater involvement of this vital group in decision-making. Let us seize the moment and strengthen resilience across Asia and the Pacific.


1Oxfam International (2005). The Tsunami’s Impact on Women. Availa ble from http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/the-tsunamis-impact-on-women-115038

2UN Women (2015) “New Gender Alert highlights the need to ensure leadership roles for women in post-earthquake Nepal”.

3Oxfam International (2005). The Tsunami’s Impact on Women. Available from http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/the-tsunamis-impact-on-women-115038

4Care International (2017). Suffering in silence: The 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2016. http://www.care.org/sites/default/files/documents/report_suffering_in_silence_web_version.pdf

5UN Women (infographic) Closing the Gender Gap in Humanitarian Action

6World Meteorological Organization (2017) Bulletin: Reducing disaster risk through gender parity and women’s leadership

7Ibid.