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To celebrate the achievements of women across the country, the Philippines declared March National Women’s Month, and Evelyn Martinez is the epitome of a powerful woman leader.

Evelyn, or “Belen” as she is called by her neighbors and friends, was an original project participant of the Anduyog program for Families Toward Values-based Sustainable Development and Disaster Management Project implemented in Lamba, Albay. Though the project ended in June 2011, Belen remained a committed advocate of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

In 2012, Lamba received a first place for the Gawad Kalasag (kalasag means shield or protective armour) award, which is given to individuals, non-government organizations (NGOs) and government organizations, to recognize their initiative in helping the Filipino government raise the country’s disaster management the standard. Since the recognition, the small village of Lamba has become a resource center in DRR. Visitors have traveled from near and far to learn from the community's practices in implementing community and family-level DRR. 

Belen is one of the village’s most active facilitators; she led DDR workshops in Leyte from Feb. 4 to March 22 this year.

Evelyn
Evelyn "Belen" Martinez leads Disaster Risk Reduction (DDR) workshops all around the country.

With her knowledge and expertise from the Anduyog program trainings, Heifer Philippines tapped her to be the DRR resource person for local government council members in Calubian, Leyte.  Belen worked with the local NGO Calubian Livelihood Assistance for Development (CLAD), which works to assist Typhoon Haiyan-affected families to improve their capacity and resiliency through systematic risk reduction, disaster preparedness and economic empowerment with its Building Resiliency and Sustainable Agribusiness in Typhoon-Damaged Areas (BReSA) central Philippines rehabilitation project.  Women’s empowerment is also inherent across BreSA activities, wherein women comprise 60 percent of the project participants. 

"[Belen] shares the concrete examples of best practices in DRR in their community in Albay,” a council member who attended one of Belen’s workshops said. “I am sure if we apply all these lessons, [Leyte] can be a resilient community, too."

Belen said she felt honored to lead the CLAD workshops. 

Help empower a woman like Belen to learn leadership skills and empower others.  

“Being a former member of the council in my village, I could easily understand and influence their attitude toward DRR, and with their cooperation, they can make DRR in their community successful,” Belen said.  “I feel a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction every time I am able to help build resilient communities. Facilitating has also helped build my self-confidence as an educator and DDR advocate.”

Belen said the concept of DRR is still very new to the majority of village leaders, despite the government’s efforts in promoting DRR and Climate Change Adaptation. The council members are very cooperative and excited to make DRR work in their respective communities.

"Heifer has given me the opportunity to learn about the risk of climate change, and I know there are things we can do about it,” Belen said.  “I will continue to seize opportunities to share my knowledge on DRR. With each workshop I am sure more lives will be saved, more enterprises will prosper and more families will be able to stay together—that is enough reward for me," Belen said.

Story and photos by Jonathan Sandigio, Program Officer, Heifer Philippines
Additional information courtesy of Karla Narcise-Rodulfo, PMEM Manager, Heifer Philippines 

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