By Kyana Bowen and Sharon Carter-Burke
As we continue to operate in a COVID-19 environment, the UN Women Multi-Country Office (MCO) in the Caribbean is playing an integral role in strengthening gender-responsive disaster resilience across the region.
Since early March 2020, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has managed multiple disasters
It is managing the impact of COVID-19, prepared for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and is now faced with an active La Soufrière Volcano. COVID-19 has resulted in varying and disproportionate impacts on livelihoods and the economy, requiring the differing needs of women, men, boys’ and girls’ to be considered when developing policies to manage impacts from the pandemic. Moreover, the recent volcanic activity at La Soufrière has triggered more cohesive, proactive, and gender transformative preparedness.
At both the national and community levels, women and men have been impacted differently by multiple hazards
In terms of loss of income, more women work in the lower paid and informal segment of the tourism sector, one of the hardest hit sectors with closures and contractions. The many women small holder farmers in the Saint Vincent and Grenadines agriculture sector were also impacted by the closure of markets due to COVID curfews and restricted movement; and could not sell their produce. Men in the construction, agriculture and tourism sectors have also suffered loss of income. Effusive eruption of the volcano has also contaminated nearby agricultural fields, further threatening women’s livelihoods. Therefore, gender-responsive climate change and disaster resilience planning, is key at the various stages of sustainable development.
Gender-informed assessment and analysis is informing decision-making
UN Women Representative Tonni Brodber said “national assessments and feedback into their governmental planning from national partners on the different impacts of COVID-19 and hazards on women, men, girls and boys, are guiding decisions on the support being given to address the challenges being faced and build on the successes.” In collaboration with the Gender Affairs Division, the UN Women MCO Caribbean has mobilised USD 26,350 for the procurement of 100 protection kits, 500 cloth masks and the provision of food/medication vouchers for 200 vulnerable women and families at risk.
She further noted: “who best to say what is needed than Vincentian women and men? We are always pleased to be able to collaborate with Ms. Quammie and the team at Gender Affairs to do what we can to meet the outlined needs. The impacts of COVID-19 and the volcano threaten to erode so much progress made, we will continue to collaborate with the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the development community to serve where we can.”
“We are cognisant of the differential needs and vulnerabilities of men and women which are further exacerbated during any emergency crisis. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for the continued support of UN Women in building the capacity of our national gender machinery to assist the national emergency response and recovery so that the needs of women and other vulnerable groups are taken into consideration.”
Coordinator of the Gender Affairs Division, La Fleur Quammie
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also a beneficiary of the Canada and UK funded EnGenDER Project, which is being implemented across nine Caribbean countries by UN Women in collaboration with UNDP, CDEMA, and WFP. With the Gender Affairs Division identifying need for immediate and direct support to women in agriculture who are being affected by the COVID-19 impact, funds from this project have been used to purchase agriculture equipment and provide psycho-social support for women, given the mental toll these hazards have taken on the population. This initiative also incorporated an Advocacy and Awareness campaign which was focused on Gender-Based Violence against women.
The EnGenDER project supports an integrated approach and includes the integration of gender equality and human-rights based approaches into disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and environmental management frameworks and interventions, addressing the gaps to ensure gender-responsive and equal access to solutions.