Nigeria’s disaster risk management, why women must lead the way

April 21, 2022

UN Women workshop under the auspices of UNDP's Sahel Resilience Project held in Abuja from 21 to 25 March © Faremi Olanrewaju /UN Women Nigeria 

Abuja, 25 March 2022 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women brought together women leaders from a dozen networks representing more than 150 civil society organizations in Abuja from 21 to 25 March, to ensure that the voices of women and girls are better heard in disaster risk reduction efforts, setting the stage for future action.

Natural hazards and man-made disasters affect men and women differently and have a tragic impact on women and girls due to discriminatory social, cultural, and legal standards and practices. The decade-long conflict in the North-eastern region of Nigeria has affected an estimated 8.7 million people in the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe displacing more than 1.8 million people. Eighty per cent are women and girls.

“As they are the most affected, women have critical contributions to make in disaster preparedness and response with their unique knowledge to ensure resilience action,” said Lealem Berhanu Dinku, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP in Nigeria. 

This situation is exacerbated by climate change impacts, which intensify pre-existing inequalities and unequal access to opportunities, natural resources, and other productive assets.

“We know this all too well in Nigeria that is increasingly hit by massive floods when rivers burst over a majority of states during the rainy season; in 2020 the number of people directly affected rose to two million,” Mr. Dinku added.

If women and men are affected differently by climate and disaster risks this is also because of unequal access to finance, technology, knowledge, and mobility. These differences in socially constructed capacities and capabilities are not inevitable.

“At UN Women we are convinced that by working with women-led and women’s rights organizations we can make this change happen,” said Lansana Wonneh, UN Women Deputy Country Representative in Nigeria.

Organised under the auspices of UNDP’s Sahel Resilience Project funded by the Government of Sweden, the week-long workshop allowed women leaders to meet with officials from federal ministries and agencies such as Nigeria’s Emergency Management Agency, and representatives from regional organizations—the African Union Commission, ECOWAS, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the Lake Chad  Basin Commission, and the Africa Youth Advisory Board.

“Gender equality and women's empowerment are fundamental to risk-informed development. The Sahel Resilience Project is an opportunity to contribute to a gender-sensitive implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction,” underscored Anna Tjärvar, Counselor at the Swedish Embassy in Addis Ababa.

The discussions paved the way for an action plan to strengthen the role of women in disaster reduction and climate change adaptation programmes and policies in Nigeria. 

"The meeting has given us what it takes to influence policymakers to better integrate gender in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation decisions," Sarah Jackson Solomon, Executive Secretary from the Nigerian women’s network Adamawa said.

UN Women and UNDP will hold a second workshop in Dakar end May that will bring together representatives of women-led organizations from six French-speaking countries in the Sahel.