BANGKOK, Thailand, Oct 15 (PIA) — Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan joined the commemoration of the 2012 Asean Day for Disaster Management (ADDM) on October 12 in conjunction with the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) with the theme, “Women and Girls: The Visible Force of Resilience,” at the Thammasat University in Bangkok.

Surin made it a point to especially recognize women’s significant roles in disaster risk reduction in his message delivered in front of some 100 people, including women and children representatives from Southeast Asia and South Asia, a statement from the Asean said.

“As we commemorate this day, Asean pays tribute to all women and girls in Southeast Asia and all over the world for their significant contributions to disaster risk reduction initiatives and resilience,” Surin said.

The secretary-general also emphasized Asean’s efforts towards addressing the unique needs of vulnerable sectors, while engaging them in the process of disaster risk reduction.

“The Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) and its Work Programme recognizes the unique needs and potential contributions of various groups of stakeholders, including women and children, in the process of disaster risk reduction, response and recovery,” he said.

The celebration was also graced by Margareta Wahlstrom, the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, who acknowledged the essence of the event’s theme, and emphasized that “women have an incredible power to be catalysts of change and can make such a different when they participate in the resilience of their communities.”

“It is our fervent hope that the women, children, older persons, persons with disability and other vulnerable sectors be given greater space in our governments’ plans for development, particularly, in disaster risk reduction programs in the region, not just as victims and positive recipients of charity and assistance but as active participants in all aspects and stages of planning and program implementation. This, in essence, is empowerment as we will be truly involved in helping our community as well as developing and harnessing our capabilities and strengths,” Salvacion Basiano from the Philippines said, speaking on behalf of the women and children.

In a special ceremony during the event, women from different countries in Southeast Asia were also given special awards and recognition for their exemplary work in disaster risk reduction and building resilience in their respective communities.

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) also participated in the celebration and presented awards for the essay competition winners from SARRC member countries on the theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction.

A series of activities highlighting the role of women and children in disaster risk reduction was organized for the week-long commemoration of the 2012 ADDM and IDDR. An exhibit featuring the different ways women and children in Asean countries contribute to community resilience as well as different organizations’ initiatives on disaster risk reduction is also a highlight of the week-long event. Practitioners from the government, civil society and the media also contributed and participated in the commemoration.

As a culmination of the five-day event, Anastasia Windi Mosa from Indonesia, as one of the community women representatives, delivered the Women’s Statement on behalf of her colleagues. A highlight of the statement is an assertion of women and children’s roles and commitment in disaster risk reduction.

“As women and children, we experience risks differently and are frequently among the most affected in disasters, especially when we are poor. But women – young and old – are not simply victims. We are committed to be strong in facing disasters and rising from its impact…. As women and girls, we commit to coordinate with organizations that represent different groups and with governments because this will lead to a more impactful programs and the empowerment of everyone,” she said.

The joint commemoration of the 2012 ADDM and IDDR was co-organised by Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), together with the Asean Secretariat, the AADMER Partnership Group (APG) and the Thammasat University. The event was also supported by the UN Thematic Working Group on Gender co-chaired by UN ESCAP and UN Women, German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), the Huairou Commission and other several other civil society organisations through HelpAge International. (Asean/PIA PND)