Peripatetic Event

International Women’s Day 2024: Celebrating Women''s Leadership in Disasters

In the build-up to International Women’s Day in 2024, we wanted to take some time to recognize the role of women in disasters. As is the case in many industries, the realm of disaster mitigation has long been dominated by a male majority, but in recent years, the tides have begun to turn. Not only are there more women in power within the industry but the impacts of disasters on women are being considered more accurately than ever before.

We put together this blog to commemorate IWD 2024, shining the light on how women have long been overlooked in disaster governance, but also showing how things are starting to change for the better.

Women in Disasters: The Effects Hit Harder

When considering the effects of extreme weather events and the consequences that come from disasters, people often forget to account for the disproportionate impact these things can have on women. In a very basic sense, women generally have lower levels of physical resilience when compared to men, making them more vulnerable to serious injuries when disasters strike. However, perhaps more significantly, the sad fact of the matter is that in many cases, women don’t have the same levels of decision-making power or access to resources in disaster-prone areas. Worst of all, in many cases the rates of rape, sexual violence, and other forms of abuse against women spikein the immediate aftermath of disasters.

These unfortunate realities only make it more abundantly clear that women should be thoroughly involved in risk mitigation strategy formulation.

Women as Agents of Recovery in Disasters

Despite the historic lack of women in charge in the industries of emergency response and disaster consequence mitigation, it’s worth noting that in many cases women have offered impressive contributions to efforts of recovery and rebuilding.

Hurricane Mitch: 1998

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch did massive damage to both Honduras and Nicaragua, with the flooding tragically taking over 11,000 livesat the very least. In the aftermath of this catastrophic event, it was the women that took control of recovery efforts. It was women that organised and undertook the hauling of cement, also building temporary shelters and latrines for communities to make use of.

Nepal Earthquake: 2015

The 2015 Nepal Earthquake impacted women disproportionately, with 55% of the around 9,000 lives taken being female. However, despite this statistic, women ended up playing an essential role in terms of rebuilding, with some women even training as masons to aid in making structures more earthquake-proof. This led to something of a shift in women’s rights in Nepal moving forward.

Ecuador Earthquake: 2016

After the 2016 Earthquake in Ecuador, much of the population was left staying in camps for some time. A UN initiativewas deployed to help prevent the post-disaster outcomes that women often suffer, while also helping women to take control of governing positions within the camps. By allowing women to be more actively involved, it led to a strengthening of the community, while also increasing the number of women in physical roles moving forward.

This International Women’s Day, it’s important to remember that even if women might tend to suffer worse consequences due to disasters, they also play a huge role in recovery and restoration when afforded the opportunity (or when they have to take it for themselves!)

Powerful Women in Disaster Mitigation

While the last section was a necessary celebration of women and female-led initiatives in the immediate wake of devastating seismic or extreme weather events, it’s also worth taking the time to highlight some of the women in high-ranking, powerful positions throughout the industry.

That’s why on this International Women’s Day, we’ve picked out a few of the Keynote Speakers and Advisory Board members from the upcoming Disasters Expo Europe, putting their contributions to the international disaster response community under the spotlight.

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu : Director of Emergency Relief and Disaster Risk Reduction  - ifaw

Marie Scholer Méndez : Senior Expert in Policy  - European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA)

Sarah Schubert FRSA FICPEM MBCI MSc : Chair  - Institute of Civil Protection & Emergency Management (ICPEM)

Federica Pilia : Senior Project Manager - Consultant  - CODESPA

Elisabetta Lamboglia : Senior Programmatic and Strategy  - European Space Agency - ESA

Livia Hollins : Senior Advisor International Climate Change  - Ministry for the Environment | Manatu mo te Taiao

Amy Forsythe : Public Affairs Officer for U.S. Special Operation Command Europe  - US


Monica Crisan: Head of Social Inclusion Unit Croce Rossa Italiana - Comitato di Vicenza - OdV


This International Women’s Day, let’s think about all of the women across the globe who are affected by disasters, working from the ground up to help with recovery schemes, or working at the top of the industry, using their talents and insights to change the future for the better. Get to know the perspectives of some of these women better this year at Disasters Expo Europe.

Find Disasters Expo Europe listed on PreventionWeb