Siap Siaga

Meaningful Engagement of People with Disabilities for Inclusive Disaster Management

The devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that shook Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara Province, on August 5, 2018, had a long-term impact on persons with disabilities in the region. In the aftermath of the disaster – which left more than 500 people dead – people with disabilities who had been affected did not know who to turn to for help. Determined to prevent a similar situation from arising in future, they have increasingly become involved in disaster management activities.

“We’re not even talking about special assistance that suits our disability conditions. Even accessing help for our daily lives is hard. Moreover, data on persons with disabilities between agencies is inconsistent,” said Sri Sukarni, Head of the Indonesian Women with Disability Association (HWDI) of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) Province, when remembering the 2018 earthquake.

Hopes for an improvement in the situation began to emerge when ASB, a non-governmental organisation, involved HWDI NTB in conducting a rapid assessment of impacted people with disabilities. Although the activity was relatively short, that was when HWDI NTB began to be connected with government and non-government parties who could assist. Later, the SIAP SIAGA Program, which started activities in NTB in 2021, became a second opportunity for partnership with HWDI NTB, and they have been engaged intensively since the beginning of the program.

“We call it meaningful engagement because HWDI NTB was really deeply involved, all the way to the decision-making process. Opinions in the form of proposals and inputs from us were really taken into consideration. We were given a significant space to play a role,” continued Sri.

Sri recalled that the first multistakeholder meeting she was involved in was the development of the Disaster Risk Assessment (KRB) and Disaster Management Plan (RPB) in North Lombok District in 2022. That’s when she once again met with the Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) of North Lombok District and NTB Province. She used the opportunity to express the importance of integrating the issue of disability inclusion in disaster management, reflecting on the experience of the 2018 earthquake. Such integration can only be realised if the government ensures meaningful engagement for persons with disabilities.

Strengthening the network

The meeting in North Lombok became the starting point for HWDI NTB to become a meaningful part of disaster management efforts. They had the opportunity to campaign and promote the issue of disability inclusion as part of development planning, especially in relation to disaster management. On the other hand, they also learned about disasters and strategic processes, such as policy review. They also invited other disability organisations in NTB Province to get involved, such as the Indonesian Initiative for the Welfare of the Deaf (Gerkatin), the Indonesian Association of Persons with Disabilities (PPDI), and the Indonesian Association of the Blind (Pertuni), to enrich and diversify disability perspectives.

“It is not easy for disability organisations, especially for women with disabilities, to build relationships with other institutions because the two main issues we are fighting for, namely women and disability, are not among the things that usually get special attention. For example, it is easier to find poverty data in villages than data on people with disabilities, their specific needs, and so on. So once a networking opportunity emerges, it must be put to good use,” she said.

However, continued Sri, the networking process did not immediately run smoothly. Some persons with disabilities worried that the involvement of their organisations was nothing more than a patch and would only be used for project purposes. Over time, trust was built that a longer-term and meaningful engagement was being developed. This could not be separated from the ongoing important role of disability organisations in disaster management activities in NTB Province.

After learning and being involved in the process of developing KRB and RPB of North Lombok District, HWDI NTB was involved in the Participatory Capacity and Vulnerability Assessment (PCVA) process of the Pulih Bersama Program (Recover Together Program) conducted by KONSEPSI and Mitra Samya and implemented in four assisted villages. HWDI NTB, which now has around 300 members, plays a role in providing socialisation to vulnerable groups in assisted villages.

According to Deni Aulia, SIAP SIAGA Program’s Policy Officer, SIAP SIAGA has promoted GEDSI mainstreaming in disaster management in NTB since mid-2022. The main focus at the time was to facilitate the revitalisation of the NTB Gender Mainstreaming Working Group (Pokja PUG) to be more active and effective in assisting Local Apparatus Organizations (OPDs), including BPBD, in making gender-responsive planning and budgeting. The Working Group is led by the Regional Development Planning Agency (Bappeda) of NTB Province and coordinated by the Office of Women Empowerment, Child Protection, Population Control, and Family Planning (DP3AP2KB) of NTB Province.

“It was only towards the end of 2022 that we analysed existing developments and realised that the involvement of persons with disabilities was not optimal, so we changed our strategy. We see that disability inclusion can be an entry point for gender and disability through collaboration with disability organisations in disaster risk management strategies,” said Deni.

The intensive involvement of persons with disabilities in the program began in 2023, setting a realistic target of providing technical support through regular multistakeholder meetings. However, the process turned out to be more progressive. The regular meetings became opportunities to build understanding and to map the needs, capacities, and potential contributions of each party.

Through the regular meeting process, an initiative emerged to provide Technical Assistance (TA or Bimtek) to Mainstream Inclusive Disaster Management. The TA serves as an opportunity for both OPDs and disability organisations to increase their understanding, knowledge, and capacity on the importance of inclusivity (GEDSI mainstreaming) in disaster management efforts, starting from planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

“They are expected to be able to plan and formulate key contributions to disaster management planning. During the process, they network, provide meaningful input, and participate in technical assistance. Currently, they have also become part of the NTB Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Forum (FPRB) and are expected to provide an inclusive perspective in FPRB work programs,” he explained.

Towards institutionalisation

Meaningful involvement of persons with disabilities, according to Deni, has been facilitated by SIAP SIAGA, which has promoted and supported inclusive disaster management through the use of participatory and consultative approaches. This has also enabled disability organisations to strengthen partnerships between organisations, including with other stakeholders.

The journey towards the realisation of disaster management in NTB that fully integrates GEDSI equality principles is still ongoing. However, there are already signs of an increased understanding and a change in approach among a number of stakeholders, including relevant OPDs. These changes, for example, can be observed during activity planning, which routinely considers accessibility for persons with disabilities.

“Previously, the issue of disability inclusion has not been fully understood, for example, on the need for effective engagement in strategic activities so that persons with disabilities have a sense of ownership in every process and result. This change actually reflects a growing understanding of disability needs,. This is a good foundation to move to the next stage, namely institutionalising inclusive disaster management,” said Deni.

There are also a number of mutually agreed follow-up plans as a next step to the Technical Assistance on Inclusive Disaster Management Mainstreaming. One of these is to support the institutionalisation of inclusive disaster management through the establishment of a Disability Service Unit (ULD) in 2024. Disability organisations in NTB agreed on a number of activities that are required to support the effective and inclusive formation of the ULD. It is expected that this will also enhance collaboration between BPBD and disability organisations in future disaster management work.