Posted: 01 Sep. 2022 5 min. read

Thoughts on Diversity in National Disaster Prevention Week

Through recovery from numerous natural disasters

Japan is an earthquake-prone country.

This is a fact known worldwide, and Japan is geographically prone to many natural disasters, such as typhoons, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis etc., and people living in Japan have gathered their wisdom, cooperated with one another, and continued to recover and reconstruct.

To remark the National Disaster Prevention Day of September 1st and the National Disaster Prevention Week of August 30th to September 5th in Japan, we hereby would like to consider the importance of diversity at disaster preparation and related support.

What gender gap brings to disaster and recovery

Japan has long been pointed out for its gender gap, but did you know that challenges resulting from fixed gender roles and gender bias have also been pointed out in the process of disaster relief and reconstruction?


For example, in the news on evacuation centers in the Great East Japan Earthquake, you may have heard about the  shortages of sanitary products and women's underwear. This issue stems from the fact that in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima at the time, around 96 - 97% of community association leaders who were in charge of designing and operating evacuation centers were men, and there was not enough recognition of the needs of women and others. In addition, the Cabinet Office's “Disaster Prevention and Reconstruction from a Gender Equal Society Perspective – Lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake – (From The White Paper On Gender Equality 2012)" conducted after the Great East Japan Earthquake reported that men were more likely to be in charge of debris disposal and women were more likely to be in charge of meal preparation, but while debris disposal was paid for as "work", meal preparation was often unpaid as "housework". Like childcare and nursing care, it is a very deep-rooted problem in Japan, which is “work traditionally provided by women tend to be unpaid or low-wage" and women who lost their jobs in the disaster were unable to make a living.


Supplies and extra income in case of disasters are a lifeline for survival, and we should not allow gender gap to get in the way, which can also lead to the reproduction of inequalities in opportunities for each person to recover and revitalize afterwards.

"You can never be too prepared"

In an emergency, more burden tends to be placed on the marginalized, such as pregnant women, families with children, the elderly, people with chronic diseases/disabilities, and people whose native language is not Japanese.  During a disaster, however, local governments are exhausted, and the evacuees themselves are often too hesitant to speak up because of their surroundings. Therefore, in a country prone to natural disasters, it is especially important to create a society where it is "normal" to reflect opinions of diverse members in the process of discussing and preparing for disasters from various perspectives.


Unfortunately, however, diversity of perspectives in preparing for disasters is taking time. For example, a national survey released in May 2022, 11 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, revealed that 61.9% of local governments in Japan has no women in their disaster prevention divisions. When compared with local governments with 10% or more female representation in disaster prevention divisions, those without female employees tend to have lower stock of items such as sanitary products, women's underwear, baby bottles, diapers, and portable toilets.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to help save more people

On the other hand, there are some areas that have started to change. Domestic manufacturing and sales of liquid baby formula is one of them.


For a long time, there had been no laws or regulations in Japan setting standards for producing and selling liquid baby formula, which turned out to be useful in both every day and emergency situations. However, delivery of liquid baby formula as relief supplies from overseas following the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Kumamoto earthquake sparked a petition for domestic manufacturing and sales of liquid baby formulas. Encouraged by the efforts of many people, legislation advanced, and on 11 March 2019, exactly eight years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan's first liquid baby formula was launched. In addition, NHK and other Japanese local TV programs, as well as radio broadcasts and local government announcements, have started to use simple Japanese language such as "ESCAPE NOW! (Hayaku Nigete) " to call for evacuation so that messages can be easily conveyed to children and non-native Japanese speakers. These changes can save a lot of people in the future.

At Deloitte Tohmatsu Group, besides having stocks of sanitary products as well as food supplies including vegetarian, allergy-free, and Halal certified food, there are periodic evacuation drills where Business Continuity Plan team provides individual lectures on actions to be taken for visually impaired members.


There are so many "differences" to consider, such as differences in family and living conditions, disabilities, care, language, evacuation with pets etc. Since Japan is a country prone to natural disasters, shouldn't we further empower diversity so it becomes the "norm" of the society to come together to be prepared for disasters through diverse perspectives? It is said that friendly society for minorities is friendly for everyone. Just as liquid baby formula is now being appreciated all the time, thinking about emergencies from a variety of perspectives will lead to an inclusive society that is convenient and comfortable for all.


It has been over a decade since the Great East Japan Earthquake, while Deloitte Tohmatsu Group continues to provide support with a focus on building communities that support revitalization.  Using reconstruction assistance as a starting point, Deloitte Tohmatsu Group shares a variety of information through our website, aiming to create social values that will lead to the next generation. Please check it out from here(Japanese only).:

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives at Deloitte Tohmatsu Group

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