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Undeterred by Disability: 50-Year-Old Philippine Woman Leads Community During Disasters

Emergency Inclusion Rights

After joining the LEAD Project, Alma, a 50-year-old woman, proved that living with a disability does not stop her from being proactive during flooding and typhoons. LEAD, ‘Local Empowerment and Advocacy Disability Inclusive Climate Actions Led by Persons with Disabilities,’ is a USAID-funded project that aims to empower people with disabilities and engage them in emergency and disaster preparedness.

A woman in a dark grey t-shirt smiles at the camera

Alma, aged 50, is a part of the LEAD project in the Philippines, which aims to empower people with disabilities and engage them in emergency and disaster preparedness. | © Marie Clarissa Manalastas / HI

LEADing by Example: Alma Helps Her Community Prepare for Disasters

Alma’s leg problem started when she was seven years old. She was playing in the field when she stumbled over a rope tied to a water buffalo. She was bedridden for months. She never had the chance to seek medical advice since her family could not afford to take her to the hospital, so she has lived with a limp ever since.

Alma's determination to overcome her physical limitations was unwavering despite the challenges. Walking 30 minutes to school became a daily battle, but her parents' advice to quit due to bullying was met with defiance. Encouraged by her teachers, Alma persisted, eventually completing a two-year college course.

Alma is now a flower shop owner and has four children. Since her house is near the river, she hates typhoons, saying, “Flooding is a permanent threat to us. People have died during extreme flooding incidents because they would not evacuate or listen to announcements.”

Alma’s perspective on disaster preparedness and climate actions has changed since she became one of the LEAD project champions facilitating topics on disability-inclusive climate actions to communities in Talibon. From being reactive, Alma finally learned the importance of being proactive.

“Before joining the LEAD project, I did not know we could prepare for natural hazards such as typhoons and flooding. I thought the response was the only action that we could take. I did not know that listening to evacuation announcements and monitoring alerts were part of preparedness and were meant to save us,” said Alma.

After joining the training on disability-inclusive climate actions and other training, Alma understood the importance of preparedness and being proactive. “Being proactive can save lives. This kind of information should be taught to all members of the family, especially children, persons with disabilities, and older persons,” she said with conviction.

As a person with a disability, Alma's role was often limited to providing for her children. However, her involvement in the LEAD Project opened her eyes to a new perspective. She realized that persons with disabilities should not be mere recipients during and after emergencies but active participants in disaster preparedness.

“A person with disability like me has a role in disaster preparedness. If only we would be consulted and involved in the Barangay planning and activities, no one would be left behind during an emergency.”

Date published: 06/25/24


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