IN EMERGENCY RESPONSE
As part of the AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme, participants are engaged in a range of presentations from disaster management leaders who are at the forefront of their field in both ASEAN and beyond. In one of these recent sessions, women humanitarians became the central theme in a session focused on Women Leaders in Emergency Response: Challenges and Opportunity. ACE Programme participants and other interested listeners were privileged to hear from three of the region’s women leaders – namely Alexandre Jing Pura (Christian Aid, the Philippines), Rabeya Sultana (HelpAge International, Bangladesh), and Vanda Lengkong (Plan International Asia Region) – who shared their experiences, insights and knowledge from their work as humanitarian leaders in the emergency response sector. The session was moderated by the AHA Centre’s Executive Director Ms. Adelina Kamal, another leader in the region’s disaster management affairs.
The panel highlighted the importance of women’s leadership in disaster settings, particularly due to the fact that disaster affects women, boys and girls on a much greater scale than men. Jing Pura highlighted that women leaders working in humanitarian settings can transform leadership holistically into the mind, body and heart, as these are key underlying drivers of humanitarian work in general. In the humanitarian world there needs to be care not only for survivors, but also for humanitarian and disaster workers. As leaders in disaster response, this is a key theme that we must develop within our teams. Women as leaders can also channel their caring character when taking on roles such as mediation in challenging situations.
Rabeya’s insight and experiences are also based upon this theme of women’s strengths in leadership, in which she spoke of the power of women being reflected not only through motherhood, but also in their roles standing by the side of other women to empower them. She also highlighted that a key to working well with people of diverse backgrounds is to be humble and to listen, and that as leaders, we should solve problems by focusing on the system and not individuals acting within it. Rabeya realises that barriers for women can sometimes come from within themselves, due to self-confidence or the impact of the overall gender context. She reminded listeners that women must learn to push through discomfort, lack of confidence and shyness, and learn to believe in themselves, their knowledge and experience as women.
Vanda also provided insight on the importance of women’s education, while recommending women leaders to be visible in a professional manner, embrace your potential, and continue to chase education and new knowledge. Education for Vanda means not only in a formal manner, but also all other types of learning, in which women can equip themselves with knowledge as their own investment – an investment that will generate respect and recognition, that is then proven through working outcomes. Vanda believes that actions speak louder than words, and encouraged the audience to undertake their work sincerely, and deliver it respectfully. Vanda also highlighted the role of organisations in promoting women’s leadership and overall gender equality, by stating that organisations in the disaster management field must provide equal opportunities for both women and men, and that these values should be institutionalised in humanitarian organisations and within their overall business processes.
As people who work in disaster response, the three women leaders remain aware and agree on the importance of both men and women working side-by-side for the benefit of disaster victims. As leaders, they believe that we must recognise that gender discrimination and inequality are ongoing realities. The leaders reminded the group to advocate for gender equality, which will require such efforts from both women and men alike to achieve real equality.
Written by : Sridewanto Pinuji and Putri Mumpuni | Photo : AHA Centre