Nellie Caleb and Lanieta Tuimabu are two such women. As members of the Shifting the Power Coalition, a collaborative network of diverse Pacific women, Nellie and Lanieta advocate for the rights of women with disabilities and work to create space for their voices to be heard in policy and decision-making.
As the Pacific region experiences an increase in climate-induced disasters, ActionAid is there working as part of the Shifting the Power Coalition to support women to lead humanitarian responses to the crises.
Nellie Caleb is the National Coordinator of the Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA). As a member of the Shifting the Power Coalition (STPC), she is advocating for change within Vanuatu to ensure that the voices of women with disabilities are heard loud and clear.
“We’ve felt that women with disabilities are the most marginalised groups in the communities. That’s why we want to voice women with disabilities’ concerns in the STPC,” says Nellie. “The main challenge is the barriers that women and girls with disabilities face in the community in Vanuatu. Women with disabilities hardly come out to speak up for themselves, because they have been discriminated against. It makes them feel that they don’t have the same rights.”
Through the Shifting the Power Coalition, Nellie is advocating for women and girls with disabilities to be given a seat at the table so that they can begin to influence policy discussions at the local and regional levels.
“We want to see more inclusion of women and girls with disabilities through the STPC… Not just coming in to warm the seats, but to speak up for themselves. As we always say, we don’t want people to make assumptions on what they think we want.”
The Fiji Disabled People’s Federation (FDPA) represents four organisations working to make sure people with visual, hearing, intellectual and physical disabilities play a partin decision-making at all levels impacting their lives. As the representative of FDPA, Lanieta Tuimabu is working through the Shifting the Power Coalition to create lasting changes in the lives of women with disabilities.
Lanieta says she would like to see the Shifting the Power Coalition “empowering and building the capacity of women with disabilities” to raise their voices and have their concerns addressed.
“So [it’s about] having those different voices participating in these programs, and also building the capacity when any disaster comes [so] they are able to respond and know where to go, what information to get and share with their women [and girls] with disabilities.”
During emergencies, women’s needs are often overlooked, and they are rarely given the opportunity to lead. This is especially true for women with a disability. Lanieta is working in her community and now at national and regional level for the rights of women with disabilities to have their voices heard.
“I think gone are the days that we work in solo. Once we are working together, our issue becomes stronger. We are not only working as disabled people’s organisations, we are also working with other NGOs and CSOs [as part of the Shifting the Power Coalition] that believe in the shared goals we want to achieve.”
Today, and everyday, we back women such as Nellie and Lanieta who are leading transformational change in their communities and beyond.
Find out more about the Shifting the Power Coalition.