PCW calls for increased protection of women in typhoon-hit areas, advocates ‘women-friendly spaces’

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) raises its concern over the incidents of rape, prostitution, and other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse in disaster areas in the country.

While we enjoin the Filipino nation in responding to the basic needs of families who have been displaced and who have lost their loved ones due to Typhoon Yolanda, the earthquakes in Central Visayas, and the Zamboanga conflict, the PCW strongly calls for immediate response to gender-based violence cases in evacuation centers and temporary shelters.

As we recognize the different needs of women and girls, boys and men during and after disasters, the PCW pushes for more “women-friendly spaces” in temporary shelters. These safe spaces will ensure that specific needs of women, whose vulnerability is even higher, will be met. Pre-positioning of hygiene, dignity, and reproductive health kits is an imperative. Psycho-social counseling, medical services including breastfeeding counseling, cash for work, emergency employment, life skills training, multi-sectoral referral services for gender-based violence survivors, recreational activities, among other services must be made available in camps and relocation sites.

We remind our frontline service providers to become more gender-sensitive in responding to the needs of our displaced sisters and brothers. Make sure that assessment data and recording is disaggregated by sex- and age. Gender-based approaches to ensure their safety, confidentiality, respect and non-discrimination must be observed.

‘Collective effort’

In view of the reported cases on gender-based violence, government agencies have convened with various international organizations in addressing the issue.

Spearheaded by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Gender-based Violence Cluster Members include the PCW, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police, Commission on Human Rights, other UN agencies and IOM, and international NGOs. They have been spelling out concrete ways on how to respond to gender-based violence in the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

The PCW, as the lead agency promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality, commends both local and international efforts in joining hands to restore normalcy in typhoon-stricken areas.