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Violence against women, girls increases in the wake of disasters – Monica Mutsvangwa

By Abel Karowangoro

The Gender and Disaster Risk Management Stock Taking Workshop in Harare commenced Minister of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Monica Mutsvangwa, emphasizing the importance of addressing gender issues in disaster risk management.

Speaking during the Workshop, Mutsvangwa said that approximately 40% of the global population is currently grappling with the consequences of climate change, including extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and high temperatures.

“Zimbabwe has not escaped these challenges, as decreased agricultural production, food insecurity, water and energy resource scarcity, climate-induced migration, and climate-related natural disasters have become prevalent,” she said.

“Disasters, whether natural or man-made, have far-reaching consequences, often exacerbating existing inequalities and disproportionately affecting women, girls, men, and boys.”

“The fact that women and girls, in particular, bear the brunt of these hardships. Violence against women and girls, for instance, increases both during and after disasters.”

Citing Cyclone Idai and the COVID-19 pandemic as examples, she highlighted how women and girls suffered disproportionately, losing their livelihoods and facing gender-based violence and teenage pregnancies.

Mutsvangwa stressed the urgent need to integrate gender perspectives into disaster risk management policies, plans, and actions. Gender intersects with other factors such as disability, culture, religion, and socio-economic disadvantages, exacerbating vulnerabilities and hindering effective disaster response and adaptation strategies.

The Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) and the Beijing Agenda for Global Action on Gender-Sensitive Disaster Risk Reduction (2009) both emphasize the importance of gender-sensitive approaches and the integration of gender considerations in disaster prevention, mitigation, and recovery efforts.

She added that there is need for Zimbabwe to review and enact the Disaster Risk Management Act, the Civil Protection Act, and a National Disaster Risk Reduction Plan that can be implemented at the local level.

Mutsvangwa further committed to ensuring inclusive and equitable disaster risk management that addresses the specific vulnerabilities and capacities of all individuals, integrating gender perspectives in policies and practices.