Humanity & Inclusion UK
About Aleema Shivji
Aleema is responsible for Humanity & Inclusion in the UK, leading a dynamic team to deliver an ambitious UK strategy aligned with our vision and values. She is also the lead for strategic partnerships for the wider HI Network.
She has 20 years of professional experience, including 15 years in international development and humanitarian assistance. Aleema is particularly specialised in the inclusion of disabled and vulnerable people in humanitarian emergencies. Originally a qualified physiotherapist, since 2005 Aleema has worked with HI across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. Her last position before joining HIUK in 2012 was head of mission for our post-earthquake programme in Haiti.
Before working for HI, Aleema worked with BRAC in Bangladesh and as a physiotherapist in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In addition to her physiotherapy qualification Aleema holds a Masters in Conflict, Security and Development. She is also a Trustee at the University of Sussex, a member of the BBC Appeals Advisory Committee, and until recently, a Trustee of the Start Network.
CEO of Humanity & Inclusion UK, Aleema Shivji, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss disability inclusion in crisis settings – One in seven people in the world live with disability. No one should be left behind.
Humanity & Inclusion exists to support people with disabilities and vulnerable people who are affected by poverty, conflict, disaster and exclusion to achieve their rights and live in dignity.
They were founded in 1982, initially supporting victims of landmines who were fleeing to Thailand from Cambodia.
Today, Humanity & Inclusion is active in 60 countries. It is a federated network with members around the world. They work in partnership with diverse stakeholders – including UNICEF, the WHO and the UK Government – and their work is a combination of advocacy and operations.
Ninety per cent of their staff are local to the countries they work in, so they’re closely embedded at the community level, which then also makes it much easier to identify good local delivery partners.
Aleema notes the importance of their work by highlighting that 1 in 7 people in the world live with a disability, and their problems are exacerbated in settings of crisis and poverty. Those with disabilities are at increased risk.
Women with disabilities are twice as likely to be a victim of sexual and domestic violence than non-disabled women. In humanitarian crises people with disability are at an even more increased risk.
Aleema sheds light on her personal trajectory. She has travelled extensively and worked in many countries, including Haiti, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This global experience drives much of her passion today, even though as CEO of Humanity & Inclusion in the UK she is no longer in the frontlines as much.
Aleema grew up in a philanthropic family but never thought of development work as a career. She trained as a physiotherapist and at some point started to feel something was missing in her career. Then, while working in Bangladesh, something clicked and she realised she wanted to work in development work and make a real difference leveraging her clinical training to train key stakeholders in the frontlines.
Aleema’s key takeaway: Remember that people with disabilities are the world’s largest minority and all of us have a role to play. Everyone from philanthropists to campaigners, to companies, to foundations and governments – we all have a role to play. Look around you and see what you’re supporting; where are you giving your gifts? Are you giving in a way that ensures that the most marginalised people are impacted? We all have a role to play to leave no one behind and to achieve the goals of Agenda 2030.
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