Support for women in emergency high on agenda at world meeting in December

How to protect privacy at shelters, cover shortages in daily necessities and alleviate uncertainties about employment have emerged as some of the challenging issues facing women in the 11 years and eight months since the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The importance of providing support for women has grown significantly as well in natural disasters and conflicts that continue to occur frequently elsewhere in the world. At the "World Assembly for Women: WAW! 2022," which will be hosted by the Japanese government in Tokyo on Dec. 3, "Women and Disaster Risk Reduction" will be taken up for the first time as one of the main themes for discussion. Lessons learned from the 2011 disaster will be discussed and it is hoped that the conference will help fuel momentum to work toward solving varied problems now that the scale and intensity of disasters are generally increasing. At the time of the 2011 disaster, there were no changing areas for evacuees at shelters and elsewhere, inconveniencing women. Some female evacuees nonetheless complained of difficulty asking for immediate improvement in times of such emergency. Evacuating with babies, infants and elderly people was among other major issues that arose from the disaster along with shortages in supplies for infant nursing as well as the tendency of lopsided dependence on women in organizing soup runs and doing some other routine duties. In the post-disaster reconstruction process, women have been left in a tough situation in finding jobs due to a small number of offers for clerical work and other types of jobs that they tend to seek, including part-time duties, while debris removal and other physically demanding labor have been constantly in demand. Some people pointed to difficulty returning to pre-disaster jobs as their employers faced hardships in keeping their businesses going. Moreover, cases of domestic violence that caused mental and physical burdens were brought to light. One survey shows that many municipal governments have no single female member of staff at their disaster response office although women's viewpoints need to be reflected on relevant measures. Similar problems have emerged in large-scale disasters that occurred worldwide as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine. So the participants of the upcoming conference, including officials of United Nations organs and intellectuals, are set to discuss ways of tackling them. Some case studies are expected to be referenced from experiences of the 2011 disaster. Female representatives of Fukushima Prefecture will join a section meeting of the Women and Disaster Risk Reduction theme. They will introduce a collection of notes describing what female evacuees experienced and other disaster-related materials, and deliver a speech on reconstruction. The conference will draw up a set of recommendations for national-level policymaking regarding support for women in times of disasters, with lessons from the 2011 disaster to be taken note of. It is also assumed that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will communicate the need for enhanced support for women to the international community via future summit meetings and other occasions based on such recommendations. "We would like to see that the conference will lead to female support coming true while using stories on women in Fukushima as lessons," said Masako Mori, special advisor to the prime minister in charge of women's empowerment (House of Councillors member elected from the Fukushima constituency) who is responsible for coordination on the World Assembly for Women: WAW! 2022. (Translated by Kyodo News)

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