Dayoon Kim: I met Mayfourth Luneta, Deputy Executive Director of the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP), at the RCC event held last year in the Philippines where SEI shared good practices and challenges faced by women environmental defenders in the Asia region. CDP was present to share community disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies informed by local and Indigenous knowledge and experiences.
CDP aims to empower these communities as frontliners of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), as well as enable duty bearers to uphold human rights and dignity in DRRM endeavours. I was inspired by the organization’s work on the ground with intersectional gender perspectives, closely engaging with local communities from different socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, the organization has shown its commitments to gender equality and social equity through projects linked to gender responsive local risk governance and child-centred DRR, as well as consultations and trainings on gender with local government actors and improving data management for persons with disabilities. CDP has great leverage with policymakers at the local and national levels for such intersectional and equity-focused perspectives to be mainstreamed in the policy spheres.
Their work helps us unpack where we can enable the local and Indigenous knowledge and experiences to be amplified in the research and development projects linked to DRR and identify entry points for policy pathways towards enabling equitable DRRM. To enable such process, research needs to be grounded and co-produced with the local communities on the ground, through close collaborations with organizations like CDP.
Camille Pross: My first encounter with Lilak – Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights, was through a study on women environmental human rights defenders, maldevelopment and disaster risk under the Building resilience through inclusive and climate-adaptive disaster risk reduction programme. Lilak was one of the first organizations I interviewed back in November 2019 in Manila. They gave me their time to thoroughly explain the gender and social inequalities affecting Indigenous women in the Philippines, the ways these inequalities are reproduced in development planning, and how such maldevelopment does not reflect the needs of marginalized groups and tends to leave them worse off. Lilak is one of many civil society organizations in the Philippines that stands against inequality and tries to make change at different scales. Throughout the interview, Lilak shared many examples of how they engage directly with marginalized Indigenous women in the Philippines, empowering them through education about the human and environmental rights they are entitled to and the mechanisms in place to claim these rights.
The following year, as Covid-19 hit and severely impacted civil society mobilization, I was so impressed by how creative and resilient Lilak proved to be in finding ways to keep connected with communities through mass message chains, providing IT tools to isolated areas, organizing protests while ensuring social distancing, and using face masks and shields as mediums to convey slogans.
During the pandemic, Lilak was also the facilitator of a three-day online regional retreat for grassroots women environmental defenders under the Strategic Collaborative Fund Programme. Despite the challenges of organizing such a complex event online, they found ways to create safe spaces for participation, ensure everyone could meaningfully contribute to the discussion and build solidarity across borders.
Lilak works on many fronts, but what inspires me the most is their dedication to transforming the lives of Indigenous women and their efforts to drive change from the bottom up. Watching them facilitate the online retreat and work during the pandemic taught me how important it is to build and maintain trust in the communities we serve, and this comes with the responsibility to continue advancing their cause no matter what. I owe these important lessons to Lilak and strive to apply them in my own work.
Pimolporn Jintarith and Minh Tran: SEI Asia collaborated with Plan International Asia-Pacific (APAC) for a research project on girls’ activism and leadership for climate justice in Asia and the Pacific. We worked hand in hand to document stories and lived experiences of girl and young women leaders who have been driving climate advocacy on the ground across the region to make small or large impacts on their lives and communities.
One of Plan International’s core values is to enable girls and young women to become leaders in climate action and to participate in climate change decision making. Centered around girls and young women in Asia and the Pacific, this project led by Plan International aims to highlight the contributions of these young leaders to climate justice. Many of them are not seen in mainstream media as often as young leaders from the global North. Nevertheless, these girls and young women play critical roles in advancing progress towards climate justice by calling for and implementing changes for a better future.
We are especially inspired by Plan International colleagues’ dedication to supporting and empowering girls and young women in the region. Going beyond advocating for them, the organization respects the voices of girls and young women as leaders and advocate with them. It is truly a relationship of care and solidarity.
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