The participation of persons with disabilities in disaster management policy development is crucial to ensure inclusive disaster management policies. Involving disability groups is key to strengthening disaster management and to building partnerships. Head of the Disability Service Unit (ULD) of the East Nusa Tenggara Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD NTT), Desderdea Kanni, usually called Desi, said that after the ULD BPBD was established in 2021, she, as the appointed chair, felt uncertain about the types of contribution that ULD could make to disaster management. The purpose of establishing ULD was to assist BPBD in promoting inclusive disaster management policies. However, Desi and her team did not feel confident about participating in the wider BPBD agenda. “The space was already there, the structure was also there, so what difference can we make?” she said.
When she got connected to the SIAP SIAGA Program in 2022, Desi did not want to waste the opportunity. She asked for support to increase the capacity of her team. From there, she and her team began to network with disaster management stakeholders, such as the NTT Disaster Risk Reduction Forum (FPRB) and other non-governmental organisations focusing on disaster issues. The concern expressed by various parties made her and other persons with disabilities encourage her to become more courageous and seize the opportunities to be involved in policy development processes. “We asked for inputs from everyone to strengthen our capacity so that our structure at BPBD is genuinely useful and not just for display,” she added.
One of the results of discussions with various parties was the need for the ULD team’s involvement in preparing the Gender, Disability, and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) Checklist, which is a document containing GEDSI elements that can be used to review documents related to disaster management planning. According to Desi, this GEDSI checklist is needed because, in NTT, there has yet to be a mapping of needs for persons with disabilities, and as such, their needs are unknown. The checklist, which was developed with input from persons with disabilities in NTT, can serve as a reference for the government and non-government institutions that provide services with a GEDSI perspective in the context of disaster management before, during, and after disasters.
As a representative of ULD NTT, Desi’s involvement with other disability organisations, such as the Indonesian Association of the Blind (Pertuni), the Disability Transformation Movement for Inclusion (GARAMIN), and the Kupang Deaf Community (KTK), was important to ensure that the checklist is comprehensive in understanding needs for assistance needed during disasters as well as providing accessible information at all stages of disasters. She emphasised that the needs of persons with disabilities vary greatly and require a range of solutions. Related to disaster early warning, for example, people with visual disabilities will need audio recordings, while people with deaf disabilities need information packaged in the form of live images. “All of these have guidelines,” she said.
Based on data received by ULD from the NTT Provincial Social Office, there are currently at least 8,000 verified persons with disabilities in NTT. They are spread across 22 districts/cities. However, Desi believes that the total number of persons with disabilities in NTT exceeds that number because the data from the Social Office (Dinsos) generally contains data on people with physical disabilities, which is usually easier to verify. The data related to people with learning disabilities, for example, is still difficult to trace.
Persons with disabilities in NTT have to deal with the potential of various types of disasters, ranging from earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, floods, and droughts to volcanic eruptions. All these potential disasters make the condition of persons with disabilities more vulnerable. “The impact of drought can cause health problems for persons with disabilities due to the lack of water, as well as economic impacts”, Desi added.
With the GEDSI Checklist, Desi continued, disaster management policies and programs in NTT will be able to pay more attention to the specific needs of disability groups. She hopes the GEDSI Checklist will be implemented not only at the provincial level but also in the 22 districts/cities in NTT so that it can truly benefit all persons with disabilities in the province.
BPBD NTT Crisis Management Analyst Veronica Johannis said that the process of developing the GEDSI Checklist in NTT has run smoothly by involving persons with disabilities and non-governmental institutions in NTT focusing on GEDSI. The GEDSI Checklist is currently being used to review three disaster documents in NTT, namely the disaster management plan, the contingency plan, and the disaster emergency management document. “Currently, the process is ongoing,” she said.
In the process of developing the GEDSI Checklist, continued Vero, the framework of the four main elements of GEDSI implementation, namely access, participation, control, and benefits, was considered insufficient, so it was agreed to add the word “protection”. “Because when disasters and emergency responses occur, vulnerable groups need special protection so that their rights can be safeguarded”, she added.
According to her, one of the challenges in developing the GEDSI Checklist was ensuring that there were intense, periodic face-to-face meetings involving all stakeholders. This was challenging to do because of budget limitations but was possible with support from the SIAP SIAGA Program.
In the near future, BPBD NTT plans to hold a public consultation to socialise the GEDSI Checklist. This process is expected to reach Local Government Organizations (OPDs) from 22 districts/cities in NTT. Vero explained that the GEDSI Checklist is also likely to be used by village governments, considering that there are currently many villages in NTT being formed into Inclusive Disaster Resilient Villages (Destana). “We from the province have to urge this because this is the authority of the city, district, and village governments. The same with the budget,” she explained.
Vero added that efforts to promote disability issues in Indonesia are not always easy. The development of the GEDSI Checklist is a good first step. So far, many people and institutions have already focused on gender issues. The next task is to ensure that all stakeholders in disaster management, including government, communities, businesses, universities, and the media, understand what GEDSI is and why it is so important. “The important thing is to build a mindset first. Previously, people knew Gender but did not understand disability and inclusion,” she said.