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Women’s leadership in Emergency Response in Myanmar

Case study

This case study, produced on International Women's Day 2017, focuses on Daw Hla, a community resilience leader in the remote and hilly region of Southern Shan, Myanmar.

Women are often disproportionately affected by disasters, so change-makers like Daw Hla are needed to identify the needs of women in an emergency and support them to assert their rights.

She is involved in the Strengthening Emergency Preparedness Systems in Myanmar project, knows as SEPS, one of 13 projects coordinated by Start Network under the Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP).

In the remote hilly region of Southern Shan, Myanmar, communities face the constant risk of landslides, heavy rains and forest fires, and the challenge of living in remote villages with limited connectivity and difficulties accessing markets. Deforestation has led to water scarcity, particularly in summer. Yet before this project began, communities had little access to crisis information or plans in place for crisis response. The SEPS project aims to strengthen community resilience and reduce the impact of future disasters.

What has the project achieved?

Partners have focused on building the capacity of local communities, and on creating structures to access information. They work together to empower such communities, securing direct access to weather forecasts and other early warning information, and applying this not only for emergency response but also for daily decisions - in a place where agriculture is crucial to many people’s livelihoods.

SEPS partner Dear Myanmar works in 15 remote villages. These areas are under the control of both government and ethnic armed groups. People living there have limited links with the township, the . Most have had little education and face challenges from government controls.

Dear Myanmar has reached more than 3,000 people in 600 households. Local preparedness plans and systems have been put in place in all villages, after participatory assessments of their vulnerability and capacity and early warning audits.

Women are taking part strongly in new disaster management committees (DMCs) that are beginning to build capacity in each of the 15 villages.  Forums have been conducted at national, regional and sub-regional level, providing platforms for discussion with the government at different levels around what communities need. A new coordination mechanism will enable communities and townships to work together more effectively in a crisis. Armed groups not under government control have also been involved in the project, through information sharing. 

Village DMCs, like the one Daw Hla is part of, have been formed with the cooperation and coordination of Dear Myanmar and Christian Aid, through the Start Network programme. The agencies have conducted Disaster Risk Reduction training with DMC members, set up their roles and responsibilities, assessed the vulnerability and capacity of each village and drawn up an action plan. The DMCs are set up to work alongside government departments and village and township administrators.

Daw Hla’s story

Daw Hla is a community resilience champion from None Tone village, Phekon Township in Southern Shan. She is a DMC member under the SEPS project and a real change-maker in her community. She was recently interviewed by a Myanmar television station, talking about her role.

‘We have organised women’s groups to prevent and be prepared for upcoming disasters,’ Daw Hla says. ‘We have discussed where we can get water, how to grow trees and why deforestation happens. [We] find solutions to improve women’s lives, and to save the lives of women, elderly people and children during the emergency period.

‘If an emergency occurs, we need to be prepared in advance with medicine, food, water, torchlights, clothes and other important documents as well.

‘I believe that we will be able to handle the upcoming disasters next year. In the future, we are trying to reduce our vulnerability and increase our capacity to respond, in order to have less loss and damage from future disasters.’

Daw Hla represented SEPS at a national level learning event in Myanmar on February 13 and spoke about her work under the project. The Strengthening Community Resilience through Peer–to-Peer learning (or P2P Project) aims to bring together regional and national research and learning within Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote good, locally based practices that build community resilience. 

Read more about the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme.

Read more about the Strengthening Emergency Preparedness Systems in Myanmar project.

International Women's Day.

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