Counting on the Voices of Persons With Disabilities in Disaster Risk Reduction


“Inclusion is the key to build a resilient community because everyone has the right to survive in a disaster situation,” said Silma Desi when asked about why the inclusion of persons with disability is important in disaster risk reduction efforts. She explained further that the ‘vulnerable’ label which is often attached to persons with disabilities should not be a boundary. “We (persons with disabilities) have to be empowered and resilient!” she added.

Silma is the (non-active) Head of the Indonesian Association of Women with Disabilities (HWDI) in West Sumatra Province, Indonesia. On 13 – 17 May 2019, ASB got an opportunity to facilitate Silma’s participation at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) in Geneva, Switzerland. Alongside her, ASB also supported the involvement of Serafina Bete, Head of the Christian Association of Persons with Disabilities (Persani) in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia, in the GPDRR. Both of them have been actively engaging in disaster risk reduction activities. Serafina and her organization provided emergency assistance for the disaster-affected community in her area following a flood in 2014, while Silma is a facilitator on inclusive disaster risk reduction who has been engaged with local and national disaster risk reduction actors. Serafina and Silma involvement in the 2019 GPDRR uphold genuine voices of persons with disabilities who are living in disaster-prone areas.

“Persons with disabilities are indeed very vulnerable to disasters, but a closer look on what has caused the vulnerability is needed,” Serafina told ASB. She highlighted the lack of accessible information and infrastructure related to disaster risk reduction. She is convinced that there is no way to fill the gaps unless data and identification of persons with disabilities are available.

Adding to Serifina’s notion, Silma also stressed the importance of disability disaggregated data. She noticed that the lack of data availability also resulted in the minimum involvement of persons with disabilities in disaster risk reduction activities. “I talked to GPDRR participants from other countries and found that most of the times, persons with disabilities are still hidden or invisible,” Silma explained. She assured that disaggregated data on disability can boost the acknowledgement of persons with disabilities and further enhance their contribution in reducing the risk of disaster.

Through their involvement in the 2019 GPDRR, Serafina and Silma got a chance to meet and discuss with other disaster risk reduction actors from around the world, including other representatives of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs). “I learned how other DPOs do their advocacy work (to promote inclusive disaster risk reduction). I also got opportunities to network with DPOs from other countries,” Serafina said. “I got opportunities to share my experience in supporting the inclusive implementation of disaster risk reduction to other people. I also underlined the inclusion mandates (inclusion requirements referred to in national regulations and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction). And as I quoted from Dr Koko Warner (representing the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security) during her speech at one of the 2019 GPDRR session: “This is our chance to listen, not only because we want to leave no one behind, but because if we want to live in a better world, we have to learn from the voices of persons from disabilities,” Silma added.

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