GENEVA (1 February 2010) -- The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women urged the international community, UN agencies and all humanitarian relief agencies to actively involve women at all stages of emergency management programmes, in both the planning and implementation processes, so that they can bring valuable perspectives and contributions to the emergency response.

“The needs and capabilities of women must be taken into consideration in all sectors and clusters of the emergency response, as the role of women in early recovery is critical to effective implementation and long term sustainability,” said women rights expert Naéla Mohamed Gabr, who heads the Committee.

The Committee, which is currently in session in Geneva, noted in a recent statement* that women and men are important resources in delivering assistance and rebuilding societies following natural disasters. However, the experts stressed that the responsibilities of women are greater on account of their roles as caretakers of children, the elderly, the disabled, the injured and other survivors.

“Whilst the strength and resilience of women are in high demand following such emergencies, they cannot adequately fulfill these roles if their basic needs are unmet and if decision-makers ignore them,” Ms. Gabr warned. “If women are to look after the needs of others, their own safety, dignity, health and nutritional concerns must be met as well.”

“Understanding the gender dynamics in communities is a crucial element for effective humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. The Committee calls upon all humanitarian relief agencies to bolster the strength of women by identifying and meeting their specific needs,” Ms. Gabr said.

The Committee is alarmed by the threat to law and order. Sexual violence is common in humanitarian crises and may become acute in the wake of a national disaster. In a time of heightened stress, lawlessness and homelessness, women face an increased threat of violence and will find it harder to support themselves, the children, the elderly, the injured, the disabled and other survivors who are in their care.

“The protection of human rights of women is as important as providing immediate medical attention, food and shelter. We urge emergency assistance teams to put in place a coordinated security system and to take all necessary measures to protect women and children and the most vulnerable,” said the Committee’s head.

The 23-member The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is the body monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified by 186 States parties. A total of 104 experts have served as members of the Committee since 1982.

(*) Statement by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women:

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