Blog post

Unlocking the full power of gender equality in disaster risk management

By: Enrica Porcari, Chief Information Officer and Director of Technology for United Nations World Food Programme and Chair of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC)  and Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau and


As the world continues to wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic, women continue to bear the brunt in more ways than one. This is partly because women represent an estimated 70% of front-line healthcare workers and undertake the majority of home-care, but also because their over-representation in the informal economy and lower pay rates mean they are significantly harder hit by the ensuing economic downturn.

Unfortunately, it’s pattern we’ve already seen all too often for other crises and disasters from natural hazards. From cyclones in Asia to heatwaves in Europe to hurricanes in the Americas, studies show women and children are disproportionately impacted.

Yet how often are women’s needs specifically addressed in work to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters, even though doing so could unlock many opportunities and unblock many constraints for everyone? Not often.

That’s why ITU and the other partners of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) are working to involve more women in the development of national disaster management strategies and consultations, including for early warning systems.

New report shows how ICTs can help

Those efforts have taken a timely step forward this month, with ITU and the ETC joining forces on a new report. It investigates how the digital divide is blocking women from becoming equal stakeholders in society, putting entire communities at greater risk during emergencies, and how information and communications technology (ICT) offers an array of opportunities to close that gap.

The report, Women, ICT and Emergency Telecommunications: Opportunities and Constraints, reveals how many of those opportunities can be unlocked. It recommends culturally sensitive inclusion of women in all aspects of ICT development and disaster risk reduction to ensure they can access the digital tools that can play such an important role in the safety and security of themselves, their families and their communities.

The pandemic is forcing society to rethink almost every aspect of our lives, including the impact of the digital divide and the role of technology and connectivity in building back better. We hope sharing this report now will go a long way towards integrating women’s needs into that debate and to unleashing their power to improve disaster risk management for everyone.