Women and girls are the most vulnerable during emergencies or natural disasters in Bangladesh, the sixth most disaster-prone country in the world.
Although relief aid is provided to the disaster sites, women and girls do not have easy access to the help, as they are the victims of gender based violence (GBV) and discrimination.
Speakers said this while speaking at the launching ceremony of GBV cluster programme at Cirdap auditorium in the capital on Thursday.
Nasima Begum, secretary of Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), inaugurated the programme following the approval of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR).
MoWCA and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will jointly implement the programme guided by the principles of the global cluster approach.
Kazi Rahman, humanitarian affairs specialist of United Nations Resident Coordinator's Office (UNRCO), and Ingo Neu, GBV cluster coordinator of UNFPA, gave an introduction to cluster approach at the programme.
The GBV clusters will strengthen an inter-agency and multi- sectoral coordination mechanism to enable coordinated, accountable and effective responses to GBV during emergencies.
Working in partnership with different government agencies and humanitarian actors, the cluster will work towards promoting a common understanding of GBV issues.
According to data mentioned in GBV draft, 90% of the people died in 1991 cyclone were women.
According to another survey titled Violence against Women Survey conducted in 2011 by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 87% of married women experience some form of domestic violence, 65% physical violence and 36.5% sexual violence.
Mahmuda Sharmeen Benu, additional secretary of MoWCA, gave the welcome speech with Nasima in the chair. Argentina Matavel, representative of UNFPA, and Christine Hunter, representative of UNWOMEN, was special guests at the programme.
Argentina pointed out that for too long the specific vulnerabilities of girls and women during humanitarian crisis had been overlooked.
“When a disaster strikes, responders first think of providing shelter, food and water, which indeed saves many lives. However, how the aid is provided needs to be considered very carefully to ensure that girls and women have safe access to it, without being put at further risk.”
In 2016, UNFPA responded to natural disasters, including Cyclone Roanu, by providing girls and women with dignity kits in worst-hit and hard to reach areas.
Beside essential sanitary and hygiene products, the kit also contained whistles and torches to protect them from violence and abuse.