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Flash Flood Guidance System promotes gender equality

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To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021, WMO is showcasing the results of a special survey on Women in the Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS) Project with Global Coverage.

The Women in FFGS Project Survey received responses from 22 female experts from 18 countries. They provided answers and shared their experience, achievements and ways to overcome challenges on their path to become successful in their work of expertise.

“While the whole world is facing with new challenges brought by COVID-19 pandemic and trying to adapt to the new reality, WMO is committed to promoting gender equality and strengthening of female experts through implementation of the Flash Flood Guidance System all over the world,” comments Hwirin Kim, chief of Hydrological and Water Resources Services Division with responsibility for the all-female Flash Flood Guidance Project team at the WMO Secretariat.

“We hope that their stories will encourage young female scientists to follow their steps. We are proud to have network of such a motivated, professional and outstanding experts and this assures us to continue with strengthening of their capacities through FGGS Project and related activities which will lead to saving lives and protect properties all over the world,” says Dr Kim.

Those who took part in the survey included: Geomorphological survey for FFGS in Nepal; Dipuo Tawana, South Africa; Htay Htay Than, Myanmar; Jelena Jerinić, Serbia; Emel Ünal, Turkey; Aluthge Dona Suhajinee Gunawardana, Sri Lanka; middle row: Gulmaira Bariyeva, Kazakhstan; Farzana Hashimi, Afghanistan; Helvi Shalongo, Namibia; bottom row: Rabia Zahid, Pakistan; Swastika Devi, Fiji; Jocelyne Abou Fares, Lebanon; Ana Octavia Setiowati, Indonesia; Tatjana Vujnović, Croatia. As pictured in photo, from first row.

Early Warnings

Flash floods are one of the most dangerous natural hazards. This prompted WMO, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, United States Agency for International Development/Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and the Hydrologic Research Center to form a partnership in 2007 to implement FFGS with Global Coverage.

By 2021, over 3 billion people in more than 60 countries are being provided early warnings of potential flash flooding through their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.

In order to accomplish one of the main objectives of FFGS, to improve the capacity of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to issue timely and accurate flash flood warnings and alerts, special attention was dedicated to capacity building through training of meteorological and hydrological experts that are working on preparation of flash flood warnings in their countries.

During more than a decade of development and implementation of the FFGS, training has been provided to more than 500 experts, one third of them women.

The introduction of virtual meetings and trainings in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed larger participation from developing countries, including an increased number of female experts.

The survey asked FFGS female experts from Members countries about the impact of participation in the project with special attention to gender equality. Their answers highlight the need to pay attention to issues such as career challenges for women as well as how participation in FFGS activities strengthened their roles at their working places.

More than 70% of the female experts who provided answers on the survey are operational meteorological and hydrological forecasters who are working on preparation and issuing warnings in their countries and have participated in FFGS trainings or meetings.

More than 90% of experts stated that participation in FFGS activities, both trainings and meetings, improve their capacities to prepare and issue warnings. New experience combined with their motivation and hard work, resulted the strengthening of their role on the working place.

By introducing innovative way for utilizing FFGS and engaging with response agencies and stakeholders, FFGS female experts contributed to improving the early warning systems and flash floods forecast in their countries.

Certain number of experts experienced difficulties during their education in the universities or at the beginning of their careers, as female experts were in the minority. However, they believe that situation is improving and that nowadays new generation on female experts have much more opportunities for education and advancing in their career.

Looking into main challenges that female experts encountered during a career, more than 60% of female experts had to work much harder to prove their quality and to earn credibility and respect from their male colleagues. Work in night shifts and field work imposed extra challenges and difficulties, especially for mothers with young children. Hard work and dedication as well as support from their families and colleagues helped them to overcome challenges and to become successful at their working place.

More than 85% of answers indicated that support from their teacher, mentor, supervisor, husband or other family member significantly influenced their decision to pursuit career in science.

“This leads us to the conclusion that it is crucial to encourage women and to constantly work on improving of environment that will bring more opportunities for female experts in their educations, careers and everyday lives,” said Petra Mutic and Milica Dordevic, Flash Flood Guidance Project Officers.

Some advice from FFGS female experts to the young female scientists that are embarking on such a career are as follows: