The UNITAR Hiroshima Women’s Leadership in Tsunami-based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Training Programme for World Tsunami Awareness Day was first launched in 2016 in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The Programme targets women from Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The UNITAR Hiroshima Office, echoing the Government of Japan, underscored that a gender-focused perspective to DRR. The Programme aims to “help focus attention on the distinct gender-specific capacities and vulnerabilities to prevent, prepare, confront, and recover from disasters.” The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and its related product, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015 – 2030) set these goals for the reduction of loss of life and livelihood as a result of disasters.
The effects of both the devastating 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami remain seared into the collective memory of all nations, particularly those most at risk from tsunami themselves. The frequent natural disasters around the world remind everyone of the importance to raise awareness and plan ahead for potential disasters.
The DRR Programme 2019 Cycle is in its fourth year to commemorate the World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5th with the support from the Government and people of Japan. The programme targets junior-to-mid career level female professionals from fourteen to eighteen selected Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at risk from tsunami in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean.
In order to encourage both the development of a Community of Practice, as well as national, regional, and supra-regional discourse, the selected participants from each country include one representative of government and one of civil society. This Programme allows for focused engagement to take place examining lessons learned in leadership, communication, and gender-mainstreaming in the realm of tsunami-based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Interactive presentations, and practical exercises have been augmented by study tours to examine lessons learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake in Sendai City and Ishinomaki City, as well as to observe community-level DRR planning and policies enacted in tsunami-prone Wakayama Prefecture. The programme has also welcomed various resource persons specialized in gender, earthquake and tsunami mechanism, and DRR planning. Participants are encouraged to utilize their insights and experiences to develop realistic action plans in their communities, countries, and regions.
The first iteration of the Programme, held in November 2016 and coinciding with the first ever World Tsunami Day, included 28 female participants, representing one governmental and one civil society organisation from selected Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific Ocean. Building upon the success of the first cycle, the second cycle also included representatives from SIDS countries in the Indian Ocean.
Taking this announcement into consideration, the third cycle of the Programme in 2018 put a major focus on inclusiveness to ensure that no one is left behind in disaster risk reduction efforts, inviting 36 women from the Pacific and Indian Ocean SIDS countries. Until the fourth cycle in 2019, the Programme has accumulated an alumni network of 122 women leaders in the region.
2019 Cycle Highlights
The fourth Cycle of the DRR Programme inaugurated on 29 October 2019, targeting 27 female participants from selected 14 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific Ocean. In order to encourage the development of a Community of Practice, as well as national, regional, and supra-regional discourse, participants will include one representative of government and one of civil society from each country.
The cornerstone of the Programme is to build an accurate understanding of the devastating disasters’ real impact on the people and community by visiting the affected areas by the 3.11 Earthquake and Tsunami. The participants were able to see the aftermath in the community and the change of behaviours that led to more inclusive DRR planning and practice as well as increased engagement between government and community groups.
Through the 10-day Programme including study visits and workshops, the participants gained insights from a variety of stakeholders in Sendai, Ishinomaki, Wakayama, and Tokyo. A study tour in Hirogawa Town, Wakayama Prefecture, was arranged as well on World Tsunami Awareness Day. The participants observed an example of DRR’s best practice which has been evolving and developing through Japan’s long history of natural disasters.
The participants developed DRR action plans reflecting their national and regional contexts. The programme successfully concluded with their action plan presentations to their peers, representatives from their country embassies, the honorary Consulate General in Tokyo, and representatives from UN Women on 7 November 2019.