Caroline Yormesor is a Senior Resilience Advisor at Applied Resilience, based in London.
To mark International Women's Day 2021, the Disaster Risk Management Professional Practice Group (DRM PPG) asked Caroline about her experiences of working in Disaster Risk Management (DRM), the challenges women working in this field face and what advice she would give to other female geographers.
I have a multi-disciplinary background of languages, law and disaster management so I certainly took the scenic route to where I am today! I knew that I wanted a career that sat at the nexus between protecting human rights, the environment and facilitating sustainable development so Disaster Risk Management was the perfect choice for me.
My advice to young female geographers looking to get into DRM is to be resourceful, determined and inquisitive; immerse yourselves in the field and gain as much exposure and experience as you can early on. Whether it is a placement in a DRM organisation, seeking out a mentor in the field or just following DRM-related themes and organisations on social media - there is a wealth of information available which will help expand your understanding of the field and inform your career choices.
One of the biggest challenges for leadership roles today is ensuring that in the race against time, be that in terms of climate change or impacts of unexpected global pandemics for example, no one is left behind. This is a crucial but ambitious target particularly in relation to DRM where we know that a one size fits all approach can have damaging impacts.
Promoting awareness and ensuring accountability for instances of gender inequity are key to reaching gender equality. Working and campaigning together will not provide a quick fix but there is strength in numbers and collaboration widens our reach. Equally, understanding intersectional factors which can have an impact on women’s progress is a further building block in promoting gender equality.
It is recognised that women are often disproportionately impacted by disasters. Following a major hurricane, shelter managers on one of the affected islands shared their concerns with me about gender-specific issues including ensuring access to safe spaces for nursing mothers and providing access to sanitary protection – key to dignity in disasters. In another instance, deploying gender balanced teams into multi-cultural environments allowed the team I was working with to complete needs assessments for displaced women who, for cultural reasons, could not speak to men outside of their families. Appreciating these differences allows us to be effective DRM professionals and to build relationships with the women in affected communities.
Inspiringly, the prevalence of women as community activists and community resilience group leaders has been particularly evident in the many of the areas I have worked in both for natural hazard and pandemic responses, allowing women’s viewpoints and experiences to feed into DRM strategies.
I am fortunate to have been surrounded by phenomenal women who have been a great inspiration to me. Personally, I am inspired by the stories of women within my family who had the strength and resilience to rebuild their lives and hold families together after the devastation of hurricanes in Grenada. Academically, I was motivated by peers and lecturers who showed tenacity and curiosity in completing research projects to delve deep into the intricacies of effective DRM. Professionally, I have been particularly inspired by the boldness, self-reflection and care from women who are willing to take a stand against injustice; we all need an ally at some point and knowing that we have the support of strong women around us is invaluable.
There are so many incredible and ambitious women in DRM who are working hard to protect communities, livelihoods and environments; this gives us a great opportunity to collaborate and elevate each other so that we can give future DRM professionals role models they can identify with. We know that changing mindsets and achieving gender equality will not happen overnight but what I would say to fellow women is that our input in DRM is crucial - we must continue to work together and continue to make our voices heard while following our professional goals.
* This interview was undertaken in 2021 and was correct at the time of publication. Please note that the featured individual may no longer be in this role, but the profile has been kept for career pathway and informational purposes.
Job title: Senior Resilience Advisor
Organisation: Applied Resilience
Location: London, UK
This group brings together risk-focused professionals from across disaster risk reduction, re/insurance, humanitarian, governmental and academic sectors, to promote best practice and uncover latent geographical knowledge, skills and practice they have in common.
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