Flood Preparedness in Viet Nam: A systematic gender-aware approach | Emergency Management | Millennium Development Goals

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In flood-prone areas of Viet Nam, most people are at high risk of drowning either because they cannot swim or lack information about how to protect themselves in the event of a flood. Women and children are particularly vulnerable - the latter because many of them commute to work by boat. Oxfam and the governments of Viet Nam and Australia have worked with affected communities to develop and implement a participatory disaster management programme with a systematic gender-awere approach. The programme raised awareness of disaster preparedness activities and also built knowledge, skills, and capacity at provincial, district, and commune levels.
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  PROGRAMME INSIGHTS OCTOBER 2012 Oxfam Programme Insights   www.oxfam.org.uk/policyandpractice   FLOOD PREPAREDNESS IN VIET NAM  A systematic gender-aware approach Girls and boys practising swimming in a protective frame with net bottom in flood-prone areas in Dong Thap province, Viet Nam (VANGOCA Participatory Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Project in Dong Thap and Tien Giang provinces (2006  – 2010) (Photo: Bui Thi Minh Hue/Oxfam) In flood-prone areas of Viet Nam, most people are at high risk of drowning either because they can’t swim or lack information about how to protect themselves in the event of a flood. Children and women are particularly vulnerable  –  the latter because many of them commute to work by boat. Oxfam and the governments of Viet Nam and Australia have worked with affected communities to develop and implement a participatory disaster management programme with a systematic gender-aware approach. It raised awareness of disaster preparedness activities through setting up information, education and communication (IEC) clubs at commune level, run by volunteers. It also built knowledge, skills, and capacity at provincial, district and commune levels through training rescue teams, carrying out simulation exercises, making early warning systems and weather warnings more accessible, and teaching women and children to swim.  2 Flood Preparedness in Viet Nam: A systematic gender-aware approach INTRODUCTION Viet Nam is one of South-E ast Asia’s fastest -growing economies. When Oxfam began working there in 1990, it was one of the poorest countries in the world. In 1993, 58 per cent of the population were living in poverty 1 . By 2008 this had fallen to 14.5 per cent, although this was 18.7 per cent in rural areas 2 . Poverty is overwhelmingly rural, and climate change has made people’s livelihoods increasingly vulnerable. Weather-related disasters are becoming more frequent and severe, and seasons are becoming increasingly unpredictable, making it more difficult to grow rice and other crops. Small, localised disasters such as landslides are also affecting poor people’s livelihoods. Viet Nam has achieved many of its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, although progress has been slow in some areas, including the political representation of women. There is still a need to improve equity and quality of education, particularly for children from minority ethnic communities in remote areas. In principle, women and men have equal rights, and women play important roles in all spheres of Vietnamese society. However, in practice, women still face deeply ingrained gender discrimination and subordination. In 2006, the Vietnamese government adopted the Law on Gender Equality, 3  and the Law on Domestic Violence was adopted the following year. 4  However, there is no coherent system to monitor and collect data on the implementation of these laws, and no administrative mechanism to hold leaders to account for their enforcement. OXFAM IN VIET NAM Oxfam works with Vietnamese communities, national and international non-government organisations (NGOs), and the government, supporting rural livelihoods and infrastructure, education, disaster management, and advocating for changes in social and economic policy at national level . Oxfam’s vision is for all people in Viet Nam to be empowered to pursue development opportunities that address all forms of poverty and injustice. By 2015, Oxfam aims to have built the capacity of movements, networks, and organisations in which women and other marginalised and socially excluded groups can articulate their own agendas and exercise their rights. Oxfam in Viet Nam has supported and implemented emergency projects in response to a range of disasters, including floods, droughts, typhoons and landslides, as well as implementing community-based disaster preparedness projects in a number of provinces. At the national level, Oxfam is currently working to improve co-ordination with other agencies and departments, and advocating for the incorporation of Sphere Project 5  standards and gender equality into humanitarian responses.  Flood preparedness in Viet Nam: A systematic gender-aware approach 3 PARTICIPATORY DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND MITIGATION PROJECT IN DONG THAP AND TIEN GIANG The Mekong Delta (see map), where the Mekong River empties into the sea through a network of tributaries, is a highly flood-prone region, with annual flooding often lasting for three months or more . The government’s strategy is one of ‘living with the floods’ , recognising that they constitute an important part of the region’s  ecosystem. However, poor families living in the worst -affected communes, with little or no resources, face many risks, even during ‘normal’ flood times. Floods affect people’s security, health, livelihoods, educational opportunities, food security, and ability to earn an income. In addition, they affect men, women and children differently. Vietnamese institutions have already demonstrated some capacity to respond to annual floods, improvement in community-based disaster assessment and management and better understanding of humanitarian standards can and should be strengthened further. With funding from the Australian government through AusAID’s Vietnam  –  Australia NGO Cooperation Agreement (VANGOCA) programme, and working with local partners, Oxfam implemented a five-year project on participatory disaster management in two provinces in the Mekong Delta: Dong Thap and Tien Giang (VANGOCA 1 project). The project began in May 2006 and was implemented in collaboration with the Department of Planning and Investment (DPI) of Dong Thap province, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) of Tien Giang. It aimed to reduce flood-related risks, reaching 265,000 people in 24 communes in five districts in the two provinces. During a disaster, efficient and well-co-ordinated evacuations can dramatically reduce the number of deaths by drowning and the number of flood-related injuries. Women are particularly vulnerable during floods because many of them earn their living by commuting and trading on boats, and they are also less likely to have received weather warnings and information about floods. Bearing this in mind, the project aimed to enable committees for flood and storm control (CFSCs) at commune level to facilitate a more co-ordinated and effective response, and to carry out preparedness work to floods in the two provinces, including training rescue teams, running simulation exercises, and making early warning systems more accessible. Building on the success of the VANGOCA 1 project, an advocacy project was designed and implemented from October 2009 to March 2012, again funded by AusAID. The project was entitled ‘c onsolidating lessons for disaster preparedness and mitigation in Dong Thap and Tien Giang provinces: a participat ory model for Viet Nam’s national community-based disaster risk management programme ’ .  4 Flood Preparedness in Viet Nam: A systematic gender-aware approach Working in partnership with government The project’s government partners, the Department of Planning and Investment (DPI) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD)were nominated by the Provincial People’s Committee (PPC) in each province. The DPI’s role in disaster planning processes included overseeing and monitoring budgets, and it had experience in infrastructure development and working with international organisations. DARD was the focal point department for disaster preparedness and mitigation. The committee for flood and storm control (CFSC) in each province is located within DARD and DARD therefore played an important leadership role in supporting co-ordination activities. Staff from both the DPI and DARD worked closely with Oxfam in the design phase of the project, gaining valuable knowledge and skills in participatory approaches that were vital for the implementation phase.  A project management board was set up by the PPC, with two key tasks: ã  playing a full role in the project management cycle; ã  setting up processes to enable institutions at provincial, district and commune level to participate in project activities. Working with civil society partners Oxfam identified the Vietnamese Women’s Union (WU) –  which has 13 million members and operates at national, district, commune, and village levels  –  as a key civil society partner because of its broad reach and its mandate of supporting gender equality and development of women. At national level, Oxfam works with the WU to develop training materials and carry out research. It also provides training for WU staff, government officials, and community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM) practitioners on gender issues in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation. At provincial, district, and commune levels, the WU has worked closely with Oxfam in designing and implementing project activities, as well as training. Many village women who are project beneficiaries are also members of the WU. They have been actively involved in mobilising other community members to participate in the various activities, including swimming lessons for women and children, gender training, and training in community-based disaster risk management. Some women have gained valuable skills and confidence through their involvement in the project and now hold more senior positions (see Box 1). Box 1: ‘ All women can do the same, if they have determination’ Huynh Than h Dao is vice president of the Women’s Union in Phuoc Lap town, Tien Giang province. She enjoys meeting with many people in the community and encourages them to take part in community activities. Dao got married at 19 and had her first baby at 20. She had only finished 9th grade at school and was very dependent on her husband for money, which resulted in many arguments between them . By chance, some older women in the village became aware of Dao’s literacy skills and nominated her to become the secretary of the Women’s Union. That was in 2001. Dao began to participate more frequently in the WU’s social activities and became a member of Oxfam’s VANGOCA 1 project in 2006.  At first, she found it difficult to participate because she didn’t have much experience of taking a leadership role. However, she was able to improve her skills thanks to her own efforts, encouragement from her husband, and support from other people in the town. Dao says, ‘I gradually became more experienced. I became more confident in organis ing meetings for women in the area and also in public speaking.’
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