Women need a stronger voice in disaster management

As the Pacific begins to shift its strategy towards a post COVID rebuilding model, there is an opportunity to rebuild institutions and programs, so they are stronger and more resilient. A key element to this process is increasing the participation and leadership role of women at all levels. One specific area of focus is the disaster management sector, where efforts are underway to close the gender gap.

To encourage and support greater participation from Pacific women, investments in training, capacity building, and policy are being made throughout the region.

One example of this is the Pacific Community’s (SPC) support for creating the Pacific Incident Management Systems (PacIMS) and Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Awareness Courses. These two Pacific-owned, Pacific-relevant, and Pacific-led PacIMS courses have been developed by the Pacific Islands Emergency Management Alliance (PIEMA) Project. The Courses have been designed for professional disaster management practitioners, and others who are engaged to respond during a disaster, including government agencies, non-government organisations, civil society organisations and communities.  From the two courses combined, 233 women have registered so far across the region.

Speaking at the launch of the Gender Equality and Learning Pathways Strategies in 2020, National Fire Authority (NFA), Manager Human Resources & Corporate Affairs Ms Mileta Seniroga said the two strategies will strengthen women’s representation in the Pacific disaster response services.

“For us here at NFA, we will use the strategies and compare what we have and see how the women can be included so we can increase women’s role in leadership, and I think that is one area we can improve on, so we can see future female chief fire officers.

For women in emergency management services, there is a lot of opportunities, and it is good to see PIEMA pave the path on how best we can improve in recruiting more females into a male dominated field”, Mileta said.

Fiji Police Force, Research and Policy Inspector Officer Mr Saimoni Bebenisala, said that this online training has strengthened the capacity, competencies, and the values of the Police Force to deliver trainings, however more emphasis needs to be put in the training of women in disaster management.

“I believe there needs to be more women involvement in disaster training, as I have noticed when it comes to disasters, men are involved. But we need women in disaster training as they offer those insights that we tend to forget, and it is very critical in terms of our gender-based policies that we have in our various institutions and organisations in the region.” said Saimoni.

SPC recognises the region's women’s tireless work in preparing for and responding to the numerous disasters that have impacted our people's lives over the past few years.

To learn more about SPC’s work in promoting gender equality across the disaster management sector, please visit:

Valuing diversity and the role of women in emergency management

Responding together: Strategy for Gender Equality in Disaster Management in the Pacific Factsheet.

Geoscience, Energy and Maritime