08 Mar 2015
Rebecca Zorn, Disaster Risk Management Specialist, UNDP Lao PDR
Syphom Village Disaster Management Committee members stand in front of the market that burned down (and has since been completely rebuilt).
Photo: UNDP in Lao PDR
Women are a vital piece of the planning process for disaster risk mitigation and response, enhancing disaster planning with different perspectives that often focus on community needs and vulnerable groups. As a Disaster Risk Management Specialist for UNDP Lao PDR, I spent 13 months training district and provincial government officials in community based disaster risk reduction. In a nation where 80 per cent of the population is dependent on subsistence agriculture for survival, natural disasters cause loss of lives, income and communal assets, and destroy livelihoods. Extreme recurrent disasters consistently take their toll. The Village Disaster Management Committee (VDMC) is the result of community-led, local disaster risk management systems implemented by UNDP’s Integrated Disaster and Climate Risk Management Project and the Government of Lao PDR. The goal of the committee is to spread disaster preparedness information, create a functioning early warning system, and plan activities that could reduce disaster risk. Women play an important role in the process. We’ve noticed that many women in our VDMCs are especially proactive. They understand the consequences disasters have on their villages and the potential long term impacts, and they really want to make a difference for the future of their children and their communities.