Women’s participation in decision-making at local level – gender justice is the key for successful DRR/M

infograph_DRR We have learnt that women’s participation in decision making at local level is as important as at national level for gender just and inclusive disaster recovery, risk reduction and management.(“Are women wives and mothers to cook and care? Lessons learnt through two mega-earthquakes”)

Local government and agencies, community governance mechanisms, and management and decision making systems at work place play important roles in disaster management and should ensure gender equality and women’s participation.

In rural Japan, like the areas affected by the earthquakes and subsequent tsunami in 2011, many people engage in agriculture and fisheries. Women, too, play a vital role in rice and vegetable farming, seaweed growing or various post-harvest practices as major or part of their livelihoods.

According to the data from the Ministry Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, women in agriculture count 51% (1.211/ 2.390 million) in 2013.  [There is no disaggregated data on women in fisheries on the same database!] 

The Japan Fisheries Cooperative (JF) and the Japan Agriculture Cooperative (JA) organize people in agriculture and fisheries respectively at local and national level. Those organizations play a key role in managing individual, family-based and corporate agriculture and fisheries enterprises at local level.

They are also important organizations in disaster management for people in agriculture and fisheries. Level of women’s participation in decision-making and management in those organizations is, however, quite low.

The issues for women to participate in decision-making in fisheries have been illustrated through the interview (“Women only get the secondhand information from husbands on the post-tsunami reconstruction”)

What about agriculture sector?

No gender disaggregated data

I looked at the homepage of JA Miyagi, the place I am from and affected by the tsunami. I could not find out how many women are in full membership and in its board members. It does not show gender disaggregated data. None of 13 local JAs within the JA Miyagi group has gender disaggregated data on respective homepage. I can just guess there are a few women listed among some board members through seemingly women’s names.

The Ministry has not updated the data on women’s participation in JA and JF for 10 years

The homepage of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan includes the data of women in decision making bodies in agriculture and fisheries and 2004 is the latest data there.

According to that, 10 years ago, the number of women who were in full membership (with a vote) of JA was 15.59% of which in board was 1.53%. 

The total number of population engaging in agriculture in 2008 (over age of 15 spending more days for agriculture a year) was 2.986 million of which women were 1.597 mil (53%) (the data in the closest year to the ones above, to compare with).

Women make up –


I must recognize that there are a lot of women in fisheries and agriculture who have been doing great work such as initiating innovative business, contributing to environmental conservation, inspiring community work, health cooking and culture, etc. and that those are well promoted by those organizations and the Ministry.

Women in agriculture are struggling for closing the gap between the level of women’s contribution and their voices in decision making.


International Women’s Day! Gender Equality and DRRM

There are many women and jobs done by women which are inspiring change across the region and the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince the 3rd anniversary of the triple disasters which hit Northeast Japan is approaching soon, 11 March, I would like to share some great jobs done by women’s networks for ensuring gender equality in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).

Integrating Gender and Diversity Perspectives into Disaster Response: The Support We Wanted! A Collection of Good Practice in Disaster Response based on the East Japan Disaster

“This booklet collects examples of disaster response activities undertaken by various organizations in, and after, the East Japan Disaster. It aims to provide advice for people without expertise to be able to provide effective assistance to each affected person with better consideration of diverse needs, and for disaster response workers and volunteers to be able to undertake their activities comfortably. We also aim that these examples will be used as an information package for a revision of local disaster prevention plans and/or for daily disaster prevention activities.”

It was published by the Women’s Network for East Japan Disaster (Rise Together). The copy in English is available on http://risetogetherjp.org/?cat=46

Women’s Network for East Japan Disaster (Rise Together) http://risetogetherjp.org/?cat=46


The network was set up two month after the disasters aiming to create enabling environment for the rights of vulnerable and diverse groups particularly women who were affected by the disasters in Northeast Japan.

The focus of the network is to:

  • Raise awareness and build capacity on gender equality and DRRM;
  • Advocate for mainstreaming gender equality at all levels;
  • Conduct researches and document women’s experiences in DRRM


Textbook on Gender and Disaster: Practice of DRRM from Gender Equality Perspective (basic level)

The network also produced the textbook which guides capacity and leadership building for and planning of DRRM at local level.

The topics include: gender-differentiated experiences and responses; support for vulnerable groups addressing diversity; national policy on gender equality and DRRM; a model programme for workshops on gender and disaster; etc.

The network has been providing services to organize workshops and send trainers.

For more information, please visit http://risetogetherjp.org/?cat=46

Fiji’s internal and external challenges


Damages caused by the twin floods in 2012 cost Fiji government US$39mil. Donors provided 6.5mil to assist its humanitarian response and recovery. (Humanitarian Bulletin Pacific – OCHA)

Overall aid assistance to Fiji increased in 2011 and reached 5.2% of the total government budget. Its major donor countries used to be Australia and EU while China significantly increased its assistance after the 2006 military coup and China is projected to be the largest donor for 2011. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation)

At the global discussions and negotiations on climate change, I would expect Fiji, as part of AOSIS and a member of Pacific Island Forum, to advocate for significant emission reductions by the historical and current major emitters while expecting larger financial contributions to be made by the historical emitters as their climate debt.

Fiji, as a chair of G77, has now more role to play in the global climate change talk coordinating diverse positions, political relationships and economic interests including its own.

Disaster is part of our life

Torrential rains caused by tropical depressions caused widespread flooding in January and March 2012. The flooding caused significant damage, particularly to areas of the Western Division. The amount of damage totaled more than 39 million. The same areas were hit by the tropical cyclone Evan in December, which again damaged the roads, markets, houses, farms and others recovering from the earlier flooding.

Temporary shelter, Saravi settlement

“One thing you must remember, disasters such as floods should be part of your life and we should accept it now, because it will not stop and will continue to come,” Divisional Planning Office Western (Fiji), Luke Moroivalu said. (UNDP Fiji)

Same to you, Governments. You must remember disasters should be part of your life – legislation, policies and institutions need to be ready to make sure human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in facing the flooding.

It is not only that you make sure the basic needs of people are met during the emergency but also, at normal time, you have to improve the situation of most marginalised sector in society, people in informal settlements, unemployed, landless, with disabilities, in remote areas without access to basic services, etc. who are the most affected when disasters occur.

Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT), at its lessons learnt meeting from the Fiji floods responses, reported the challenge of evacuation centers not having adequate access to water and basic sanitation and suggested the government to develop a criteria for the selection of evacuation centers to ensure they meet basic WASH needs. 

Another main challenge the Protection Cluster of PHT faced was the lack of an official protection structure within the authorities and the partners on the ground, which impeded a holistic approach.(Humanitarian Bulletin Pacific – OCHA)

Gangamma Devi, Nadi Municipal Market

Gangamma is one of the affected by the floods, deprived of her livelihood for a while. She sells vegetables in the Nadi municipality market since 2007. She is a mother of three children at home. When the level of rain water reaching higher she took her baby and sat on the rooftop of her house. She and her family were eventually moved to an evacuation centre.

 She recalled that the most difficult thing during and after the flooding was to secure food for her family. She needed cash to buy vegetables to sell at the market and buy food for her family. She could not come to the market because the roads to the market were damaged. “Only one packet of milk was distributed as a relief supply in a week, which was just enough for a baby for only a couple of days. Adult can eat other things but babies can only eat milk,” she said.

Ivamere Qio, Corociri settlement

Ivamere lives in Corociri settlement with her family including her 11 grand children. She and others in the settlement till the land lent from a chief of other village. Most of the crops were damaged by the floods but there were some crops and vegetables left in the farm which sustained the farmers and their families.

“We kept working on the farm, clear the land and plant again. Nothing special,” said Ivamere.

Fiji as a chair of G77

Ms. Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change visited Fiji and assured Fiji of its support during Fiji’s tenure as chair of the United Nations Group of 77 (G77).

“We (Costa Rica) have been chair of the G77 once and we know the challenges it brings to the table. It is very hard because the dynamics of the G77 now has really changed as it was five or six years ago…It is more fractured now and Fiji will have to bring all these developing countries together and also represent the group to development partners and umbrella groups,” said Figueres. (source)

Fiji enjoys another big support within G77 for its chairmanship through its close friendship and mutual interest with China.

China assured its support to Fiji’s chairmanship in G77:

Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, met Ambassador Peter Thomson in New York. Xie “took the opportunity to acknowledge Fiji’s effective work in maintaining G77 unity across the broad range of issues that the G77 is active on this year. At the same time, he assured Ambassador Thomson of China’s active and constructive role in supporting Fiji’s Chairmanship of the global body”.  (source)

Rain water harvesting, Qoma Island, Fiji

Fiji seems quite confident in expressing its prioritizing the relationship with China:

In a speech given on Tuesday to the Pacific Islands Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the Fiji High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Mr. Solo Mara, argued that the Pacific Islands region has a ‘voice that is beginning to be recognized on the global stage’ as it emerges as a possible “geo-strategic political pitch for the super-powers, particularly China and the United States.”

On the other hand, the High Commissioner said China was a “sincere development partner” that has demonstrated a sustained commitment in the region and “stepped in when other western development partners, such as the (United States) and the (United Kingdom), withdrew.” From this perspective, he called “improved and closer relations with China … an inevitable progression” and said that China had been more effective than Australia at filling “the vacuum” left when other western development partners pulled out. (source)

China demonstrated its support for Fiji particularly following the 2006 coup in which military leader seized power from the elected government while major western donors were critical on the slow democratic process made by the interim government.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChina also shows its interest in other pacific island developing countries:

The White Paper notes that China’s grant aid has doubled since 2005, and it now has a much larger concessional loan program than previously (p.248). In late September 2012, Papua New Guinea obtained a $A2.8 billion loan from China to improve the country’s infrastructure, particularly to upgrade the Highlands Highway and airports. More broadly, China had pledged more than $600 million since 2005 in ‘soft loans’, offering long interest-free periods to nations such as Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands. It also stepped up its aid to Fiji. (source)


Money matters, as far as it is reducing the GHGs being emitted and accumulated, as far as it is to ensure all human rights of all people including the right to development. It is clear that human rights obligations cannot be met by each individual state. And it is clear that the development path of the country cannot be driven by small portion of people for their own interests with their political and economic power.