- Nikki Antonette De Vera, an advocate for disaster risk reduction (DRR) from the Philippines, emerges as a beacon of change in the field. Nikki’s exposure to emergency response efforts early in life inspired her commitment to sustainable livelihoods and equitable DRR.
- As an alum of the UNITAR Hiroshima Women’s Leadership in Tsunami-based Disaster Risk Reduction Training Programme, her journey underscores the symbiotic relationship between culture and learning in building resilient communities.
- The UNITAR training programme provides a women's leadership training programme in disaster risk reduction to be conducted in Samoa, aiming to empower women leaders with the knowledge and skills needed for effective disaster resilience efforts.
A Catalyst for Change
28 August 2023, Hiroshima, Japan – Nikki Antonette De Vera, from the Philippines, is an alum of the UNITAR Hiroshima Women’s Leadership in Tsunami-based Disaster Risk Reduction Training Programme for World Tsunami Awareness Day. Nikki participated in this programme in Samoa which enriched her perspective, emphasizing the importance of cultural heritage in disaster resilience.
Nikki is an independent consultant, mother of a two-year-old daughter, and currently works with women in the textile industry, focusing on community-based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. Inspired by her exposure to disasters through her mother's emergency response work and driven by a passion for sustainable livelihoods, Nikki embarked on a journey to address the cycle of poverty that often accompanies disasters in her country.
Nikki's message to fellow professionals in the field underscores the imperative of self-confidence and action, highlighting that disasters transcend borders and demand collective efforts for a resilient future. Her vision for UNITAR's future involves continued innovation, technology integration, and building a network of empowered women advocating for disaster resilience.
Discovering Purpose Amidst Challenges
Nikki's step into the realm of disaster risk reduction was not only a professional choice but a calling born from personal experiences. Growing up in an environment where her mother participated in emergency response efforts, Nikki gained early exposure to the aftermath of disasters. As a young child, Nikki understood the indomitable spirit of disaster survivors and the cycle of poverty perpetuated by recurring catastrophes. Nikki realized that in the Philippines, the country itself suffers from many disasters year-round and addressing disaster risk and changes in climate is not just to mitigate damages but is a way to survive. Combined, this exposure became the impetus for Nikki's determined pursuit of equitable disaster management, economic empowerment, and sustainable livelihoods.
I saw that many of the problems in many communities in my country needed more knowledge, more support [without] understanding the root of why it is always that when disasters happen, this cycle of poverty repeats.” – Nikki Antonette De Vera, UNITAR alumna
DRR: A Call to Unite Cultures and Expertise
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Nikki supported local salespeople adversely affected by the crisis by providing essential resources. It was during this period that she realized the potential of community-based disaster risk reduction. In a country like the Philippines, where the threat of disasters is ever-present, Nikki perceived the promising outcomes of blending culture with contemporary disaster risk reduction techniques. For instance, in Samoa, where the significance of community and family is deeply interwoven with their values, the residents established a command center that collaborates with agencies and international development organizations, operating akin to a community unit. This approach, combined with modern disaster resilience strategies, has empowered Pacific islanders to acknowledge potential disasters and confront challenges as a united community. The amalgamation of tradition and innovation emerged as a potent strategy, acknowledging historical practices while embracing current methods to fortify the future.
UNITAR Hiroshima: Igniting Transformation
Nikki's engagement with the UNITAR Hiroshima Women’s Leadership in Tsunami-based Disaster Risk Reduction Training Programme brought a transformative shift in her perspective, igniting a renewed commitment within her. The programme's innovative hybrid structure, seamlessly blending online and in-person training, catered perfectly to Nikki's needs as a working professional and devoted mother. In the initial phase of immersive online training, Phase I, Nikki was exposed to interactive and enlightening insights into disaster risk reduction concepts. This foundation was significantly enriched in Phase II, where the in-person training took place in Samoa. This dynamic approach facilitated a profound learning experience, unhindered by constraints, and promoted active participation. Nikki, in the company of a diverse cohort, gained practical exposure by visiting a location previously affected by a tsunami, which had upended the lives of a community of 2000 inhabitants. This unique opportunity afforded her the privilege of listening to firsthand narratives from individuals, including those from Tonga, who generously shared their personal encounters with the tsunami's impact on their homeland.
Through these exchanges, Nikki gained valuable insights into the multifaceted strategies undertaken by governments, NGOs, and local communities to bolster their disaster and climate resilience capabilities. This collective endeavor highlighted the monumental strides made in the realms of disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation. Armed with this enriched knowledge, Nikki was well-equipped to assimilate essential practical lessons, which she is now poised to apply in her disaster relief efforts back home in the Philippines.
Networking of people connecting many women from all the countries in the Pacific and Asia and create a Nexus of people who will be fighting for disaster resilience.” – Nikki Antonette De Vera, UNITAR alum
Driving Change: Lessons for Replication
Nikki's message for fellow disaster management professionals resonates with empowerment and action. Her journey encourages individuals to overcome self-doubt and embrace their roles as catalysts for change. As a leader, nurturer, and advocate, Nikki exemplifies the transformative potential of culture, collaboration, and knowledge. Her experience underscores the urgency of proactive engagement, demonstrating that tangible impact can emerge from a blend of passion and education.
[The training was] liberating as I was able to get the chance to meet fellow women like me, who are lifting their communities, their countries for resilience.” – Nikki Antonette De Vera, UNITAR alum
UNITAR’s Vision and Nikki's Legacy
Nikki's journey serves as a living testament to UNITAR's unwavering commitment to capacity-building and fostering empowered change-makers. Her online and in-person training experience as “enriching” encapsulates the depth of knowledge gained and the profound personal growth achieved. Looking ahead, Nikki envisions UNITAR's continued innovation and expansion, envisioning a global network of empowered disaster resilience advocates. Nikki's journey embodies the potential of culture, learning, and collaboration to transform disaster risk reduction into a shared global endeavor.
Training is very enriching because you're sharing the stage with fellow women and men as well about with their experience.” – Nikki Antonette De Vera, UNITAR alum
UNITAR Hiroshima Office 20th Anniversary
The year 2023 marks 20 years since the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Hiroshima Office was established. As part of the UNITAR alum community, Nikki applauded the UNITAR experience as deeply enriching. Looking ahead to the next two decades, her vision for UNITAR is one of relentless innovation. Nikki emphasizes the critical need for the program to remain at the forefront of technological advancements as it grows. As she envisions the years ahead, Nikki underscores the significance of fostering collaborations and networks among individuals, particularly women, spanning the expanse of Pacific and Asian countries. Through these concerted efforts, facilitated by the dedication of hardworking individuals, Nikki envisions the creation of a robust and interconnected community committed to disaster resilience and sustainable development.
A Cultural Tapestry of Resilience
Nikki Antonette De Vera's journey epitomizes the fusion of culture and learning in disaster risk reduction. Her story is a part of the inspirational stories celebrated by UNITAR, reinforcing the immense value of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and cultural preservation. In an increasingly complex world, Nikki's legacy serves as a poignant reminder that united by culture and propelled by learning, we possess the collective power to forge a more resilient and harmonious future. As Nikki continues her advocacy, her story stands as a testament to the transformative potential of the human spirit when fueled by culture, knowledge, and collaboration.
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a dedicated training arm of the United Nations. In 2022, UNITAR trained 396,046 learners around the world to support their actions for a better future. In addition to our headquarters in Geneva, we have offices in Hiroshima, New York and Bonn and networks around the world.
The Division for Prosperity is based in the Hiroshima Office and Geneva. We seek to shape an inclusive, sustainable and prosperous world through world-class learning and knowledge-sharing services on entrepreneurship, leadership, finance and trade, digital technologies, and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. We empower individuals from least developed countries, countries emerging from conflict, and small-island developing states – especially women and young people – to bring about positive change.
United Nations Volunteer Da Hyung Sun contributed to this article.