Conference agrees action plan to empower and protect women

A conference organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva has agreed a multi-partner action plan to reinforce the role of women in developing and using weather and climate services for the benefit of the entire community.

The Conference on Gender Dimensions of Weather and Climate Services, held from 5-7 November, considered how to embrace the specific vulnerabilities and strengths of women as part of a wider agenda to accelerate climate change adaptation efforts and increase disaster resilience of society as a whole.

 “Extreme weather events are increasing.  Floods, droughts and cyclones pose ever greater dangers for hundreds of millions of people around the world, and sea-level rise is a threat to the very existence of whole countries and regions,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a message to delegates. “Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to these risks, but they also have the greatest capacity to become champions of community resilience.”

“This Conference reflects your collective commitment to bring women to the center of climate mitigation and adaptation – and to better tailor climate information,” said Mr Ban Ki-Moon, who welcomed the “valuable guidance for practical action at international, national and local level.”

Knowledge and Action

The conference was attended by about 300 participants, ranging from Ministers and U.N. agency heads to local community leaders who brainstormed on how better to empower and protect both women and men with weather and climate services. Women and men access, use and respond to information differently. More gender-tailored forecasts and warnings would increase their benefit and impact for the whole community.

The event, co-sponsored by a wide range of partners including UNESCO, WHO, U.N. Women and UNISDR (see all partners and sponsors), was successful in establishing in a more consolidated knowledge-base and an active cross-sectoral network to translate this knowledge into action.

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. In the closing ceremony, many participants made concrete proposals to put into practice in their own country or community.

The conference will help national meteorological and hydrological services around the world develop more gender-sensitive weather forecasts and climate services like seasonal outlooks. It is also meant to inject new dynamism into the drive to attract more female scientists.

“The ultimate criteria of success is that, a few years from now, we will not need another conference because gender aspects of weather and climate services will have been fully taken into account,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

The impact of disasters is different for women and men due to social constructs. Empowering women builds important capacities for disaster response and climate resilience. Photo: WMO
The impact of disasters is different for women and men due to social constructs. Empowering women builds important capacities for disaster response and climate resilience. Photo: WMO


Disaster Risk Reduction was one of the main themes discussed in the conference. In many parts of the world, women and children suffer disproportionately from natural disasters, especially if they are less mobile and have less access to communications than men. This is not always the case – in the United States of America, for instance, most of the casualties from lightning strikes are men because they are more “risk-seeking.” A better understanding of how women and men access and use hazard warnings would lead to improved impact-based forecasts and so help reduce casualties.

Their experience means that women are often the most powerful advocates of resilience and are the driving force behind recovery efforts.

More attention should be given to womens’ skills in disaster risk management and mitigation, the conference was told. There also needs to be better coordination between meteorological and hydrological services and disaster management authorities.

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