Strengthening women leadership in all aspects of disaster planning, response and preparedness was the aim of a workshop held recently in Port Vila.

Women and girls are more at risk in disasters but are often heard less.

While the Pacific region is experiencing a significant climate-induced humanitarian disasters, women who are always on the front line of the impacts felt that they should also be on the forefront of solutions.

The recent workshop focuses on equipping women from the region with knowledge and skills to take lead in disaster and emergency response.

Participants from six Pacific countries- Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea including Vanuatu are part of ‘Shifting the Power Coalition’, a network funded by the Australian Government through ActionAid.

The Interim Director of ActionAid Australia, Michelle Higelin, as one of the workshop facilitator said women throughout the Pacific are often excluded from decision processes.

“Shifting the Power Coalition came out of women’s experiences from cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and cyclone Winston in Fiji where we started to see there was not enough space for women to influence disaster planning in each countries.

“We decided to work together to strengthen women’s voices at the national and regional level.

“The coalition is about increasing increasing women’s engagement in formal processes.

“It is about strengthening mechanisms of their own experiences in driving better planing and response, particular making sure humanitarian response is gender inclusive.

“Disasters disrupt a woman’s family, her home and livelihoods.

“It’s important for them to have a part in shaping the response to these issues,” she said.

Making sure rural women have a voice in national policy and planning when it comes to disaster response is our (ActionAid) goal, she added.

ActionAid is a global women’s right organisation working to promote women leadership in humanitarian response.

In Vanuatu, ActionAid is partnering with Women i Tok Tok Tugeta Forum to empower women’s capacity to respond to disasters and support them to lead meaningful programs that can bring positive changes to their communities.

The newly formed local women network has members on Tanna, Erromango who attended the workshop and is planning to expand beyond Tafea Province.