In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the coastal town of Loíza, in Puerto Rico.
A local nonprofit stepped up to support disaster-relief efforts, and they started by talking to women.
“We women are leading communities. Women are taking care of kids. Women are taking care of elder bedridden people,” says Jenifer De Jesús Soto of Taller Salud, a nonprofit focused on women’s health and violence reduction.
She says because women are often caregivers, they frequently know who is most vulnerable and what their communities need in an emergency.
So Taller Salud partnered with women on the ground to distribute food, water, infant formula, and medicine. The group helped set up community kitchens where people could get hot meals, and access mental health services, reproductive health supplies, and other support.
De Jesús Soto says the lessons they learned during Maria prepared them to respond during Hurricane Fiona in fall 2022.
The team was able to ramp up relief efforts quickly, so women on the ground had the resources they needed to help themselves and others.
“When you invest in women, you are investing in the whole community also,” she says.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media