New UNESCO Chair for Gender and Vulnerability in Disaster Risk Reduction

10 April 2018

The first UNESCO Chair for Gender and Vulnerability in Disaster Risk Reduction at Kobe University (Japan) was launched on 06 April 2018. This new Chair will help raise awareness on the importance of building disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies and programs that are both gender sensitive and inclusive.  

Mr Hiroshi Takeda, President of Kobe University gave the opening speech at the Kickoff Symposium, followed by speeches from Mr Kazuaki Kawabata, Director-General for International Affairs of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for Japan, Ms Saniye Gülser Corat, UNESCO Director for Gender Equality and Mr Takeo Fukui from UNESCO’s Section on Earth Sciences and Geo-Hazards. In her speech, Ms Corat mentioned that “women comprise 70% of the world's poor and are more vulnerable to the impact of disaster due to existing socio-economic, political and cultural disadvantages. At the same time, women play a critical role for the protection and safety of their communities.” 

Mr Kazunori Uchida, Executive Vice President for Public Relations and Community Cooperation at Kobe University, introduced the new UNESCO Chair. His speech was followed by a panel discussion on the theme “The Importance of International Collaboration in Addressing Disaster: Visions and Realities of Gender and Vulnerability Disasters”. The speakers came from different partner institutions, including Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia), MERCY Malaysia (Malaysia), National Kaohsiung Marine University (Taiwan), National Women’s Education Center (Japan), Network for International Development Cooperation (Thammasat University, Thailand) and University Tunku Adbul Rahman (Malaysia).

Kobe University was the only national university located at the center of damage and destruction during the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. It has accumulated extensive knowledge on disaster risk reduction as well as the support needed to help reconstruct affected communities.  Those most affected by disasters are generally populations whose access to services are already limited - women and girls. With fewer resources and less mobility they are put in exceptionally vulnerable situations when crises arise and are further exposed to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. This is the reason why Disaster Risk Reduction activities can only be successful if they are built around the needs, strengths and vulnerabilities of men and especially girls and women.

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