Gender is a critical consideration in ensuring that effective early warning systems (EWS) leave no one behind. Vulnerability to the impact of disasters is increased by gender inequality, gender norms, and social marginalization. The less economic, political, and cultural power is held by women and gender minorities prior to a disaster, the greater their suffering during and in the aftermath.
Women and marginalized groups including gender minorities are often excluded from disaster risk reduction policies, strategies, and decision-making due to unequal power relations, gender norms, and gendered socioeconomic inequality. In addition, early warning messages are less likely to reach women and other marginalized groups, directly impacting their chance of survival.
It is important to pay special attention to the voices and stories of populations which are marginalized, hidden, and vulnerable, to understand the specific needs, priorities, and perspectives of these groups, to ensure that the EWS is effective for them and that ‘no one is left behind.’ This is exactly the case in Baguio where Ramboll, in partnership with Practical Action Consulting, is currently designing a ‘flood early warning system’.
The Baguio EWS is one of the first ‘task orders’ in the AASCTF smart city project in South East Asia led by the international team in Ramboll Water. The city of Baguio in the North-Western part of the Philippines has been prioritized because it faces a growing risk of natural hazards.
Located approximately 1,470 meters above sea level, Baguio has a rather cool climate compared to the rest of the country and is therefore considered the ‘summer capital of the Philippines’. It has an annual economic growth rate of 16% and is also attracting almost two million tourists annually. As the city is located on a mountainside with many of its houses built on steep slopes, it also faces a growing risk of severe flooding and landslide.
“These growing risks have led to a clear need for a smart flood early warning system – and in our understanding and definition of ‘smart’ this includes that we design systems that don’t leave anybody behind,” explains Catherine Grant, Lead Consultant, Ramboll.
“We also had a strong commitment by the Mayor of Baguio to explore gender more explicitly in the development of the city’s FEWS. We consider this commitment and our ongoing collaboration with the City decision-makers really critical in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the FEWs and particularly from a gender perspective.”
By working with cities, AASCTF facilitates their transformation to become more livable, resilient, and inclusive, while in the process identifying scalable best and next practices to be replicated across cities in Asia and the Pacific. This task order also exemplifies the vision of the AASCTF as elaborated in the Fund’s Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Strategy, which seeks to implement GESI-focused interventions where we have identified an expressed need.
Ramboll’s strategic collaboration with Practical Action Consulting builds on their experience researching and advocating for gender transformative EWS and their innovative approach to understanding the needs of those who are most marginalised, which has been endorsed and taken up by UN Women in subsequent research.
Key to this approach is capturing the “missing voices” that tend to go unheard in traditional data sources. In addition to community surveys conducted in Baguio to support the study, the team have conducted a series of “missing voices interviews” to document the experiences and voices of individuals who are marginalized as a result of societal discrimination due to their gender, sexuality, marital status, physical ability, ethnicity, religious affiliation, among others.
The first output of the collaboration with Practical Action Consulting will be a gender and inclusion baseline study report that reflects the surveys and interviews conducted in Baguio. The findings and recommendations will feed directly into the general design and development process of the technical FEWS, placing marginalized groups at the centre and helping the EWS to deliver effective early warning for people of all genders.