The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is spearheading a drive to ensure that weather and climate services embrace the special needs and strengths of women to reduce their vulnerability to disasters and climate change and realize their potential as champions of community resilience.
The Conference on Gender Dimensions of Weather and Climate Services will focus in particular on climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, health, water and food security. It will also discuss how to attract and promote more female scientists in meteorology and hydrology.
“We have made great progress in improving weather forecasts and climate services such seasonal outlooks to help protect lives and livelihoods,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “But if we are to help communities cope with long-term climate change and the anticipated increase in hazards like floods and heat-waves, then we need to do more to reach out to women with gender-sensitive services,” he said.
The conference, which started in Geneva on the 5th of November 2014, is co-sponsored by a wide range of partners. The conference would end on the 7th Of November,2014 and would lead to building a new pool of knowledge and tools.
- Tarja Halonen, former Finnish President
- Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Minister of Courts and Justice, Samoa.
- Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General
- Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary-General
- Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
- Lakshmi Puri, UN Women Deputy Executive Director
- Margareta Wahlstrom, UN Special Representative for Disaster RiskReduction.
- Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment Department at the World Health Organization
Conference participants include experts from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services; U.N. agencies, academic institutions and civil society representatives; national authorities and country-level practitioners; and national and international women’s rights advocates.
Good weather and climate services are essential for good decisions. In many rural communities around the world, women bear the most responsibility for household food and water supply. Better access to weather-related information and knowledge translates into a better productivity and a better life.
Women in developing countries are often more exposed to the risks of extreme weather because they can be less mobile than men, with less access to traditional means of communication. They are also more vulnerable to associated risks such as under-nutrition and water-borne diseases.
For instance, in the 1991 cyclone disasters that killed 140000 people in Bangladesh, 90% of victims were women. Explanations for this include the fact that more women than men are homebound, looking after children and property. In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis came ashore in Myanmar. Among the 130000 people dead or missing in the aftermath, 61% were female.
Their experience means that women are often the most powerful advocates of resilience.
In the aftermath of disasters, it is frequently women who are the driving force behind hands-on recovery efforts.
The conference will raise awareness and showcase good practices and concrete actions to empower women to produce and use weather and climate services. It will define the steps needed to close the gap in the use of such services by women by answering two important questions: How can we design such services to meet the needs of women? How can we empower women to better use such services to serve their communities?
“We have the opportunity and the responsibility to bring women’s voices to the fore of climate change solutions in international delegations, national decision-making and community-level mitigation and adaptation strategies. Women with the knowledge we hold and the ability to get things done are a valuable resource but traditionally under-utilized. International response to climate change can change that and usher in a new era of equality,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.
A high-level panel on Women and Careers in Weather, Water and Climate will examine how to attract and promote more female scientists. Over the last forty years the number of women involved in science related careers and organizations has increased. But as a global average, only one-third of professionals in meteorology and hydrology are women. Discussions will focus on what can be done to improve the situation.
“Unfortunately, women are discouraged from choosing scientific studies in Africa. They should not be. Instead, they should look at the women that have succeeded in these fields and know they can make it too,” said Dr. Agnes Kijazi, Director-General of the National Meteorological Service of the United Republic of Tanzania. “There is a need to encourage and create a conducive environment for young girls who have vision of being great future scientists to realize their vision.”
Conference outcomes will feed into the post-2015 development agenda, the disaster risk reduction future framework, and other future climate action, and Beijing+20 platform on gender equality.
The conference will help national meteorological and hydrological services around the world develop more gender-sensitive services and forecasts and will also inform the implementation of the WMO-spearheaded Global Framework for Climate Services as well as the provision of weather services.