Mainstreaming Disability: sharing experiences on the human-rights based approach

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Christian Aid Ireland facilitated a Gender Equality & Social Inclusion global meeting, funded by Irish Aid, on the 13th and 14th May, at the Priory Retreat Centre, Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland.  One of the main objectives of the meeting was to gain more confidence and practical tools to expand on plans to increase the organization’s inclusive programming approach. CBM Director of Disability Inclusive Development (DID) Mary Keogh and Kathy Al Ju’beh, Senior Advisor for Inclusive Development were invited as guest speakers to share CBM’s experience and expertise on disability inclusion.

During the morning sessions, Christian Aid staff from different country offices such as Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Colombia, El Salvador, Angola, Ireland among others shared their experiences and feedback on previous activities. Each country office received 5,000 Euro budget to be spent in inclusivity strategies from different perspectives, and each office has allocated that budget to a range of different issues. Discussions were held in regards to tackle challenges and find strategies at country office level. Christian Aid staff shared three different case studies, and CBM representatives commented on these from the disability inclusion perspective:

·          Disability & Political Participation. In Zimbabwe some of the strategies to encourage a more disability inclusion work are promoting research to assess current local political participation. A group of 69 people with disabilities were included as ‘monitors’ to collect information on how people with disabilities can currently access political participation, enjoying their freedom to choose a political orientation. This is critically important to be promoted in this context considering the tension in the country in regards to political orientation and the right to freely express opinion. Throughout the implementation of this strategy, the organization has achieved people with visual disabilities being able to choose who they prefer to assist them in the voting process. However, this initiative still presents barriers to be implemented systematically across all regions in the country; another strategy implemented by Zimbabwe country office in regards disability inclusion is promoting more media engagement, for example radio shows to highlight specific issues on participation of people with disabilities. Challenges were presented in relation to the attitudes and willingness to accommodate people with disabilities by authorities; promoting acceptance of a wider and more diverse group of people with disabilities monitoring current situation on political participation; inadequate resources to enable ‘monitors’ with disability to perform their duties, for example transportation; and how to address cultural barriers.

Mary Keogh and Kathy Al Ju’beh highlighted the relevancy of this case in relation to The UN Convention of the Rights Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in particular Articles 12 and 29. These relate to human rights based descriptions of legal capacity and political participation. CBM representatives suggested the Christian Aid Zimbabwe office to further explore this concepts, and also encouraged the team to continue the transformation, ‘’because this is a very good example, of despite having barriers, start doing things’’ (Mary Keogh).

 ·          LGBT Inclusion Case Study. In Colombia and Ecuador the focus of the work is to establish alliances for work not only with LGBT social movements, but also with unions, civil society and other social movements to further a programme of change to tackle LGBT communities’ risk position of suffering violence, especially in rural areas. Strategies implemented are establishing Peace Corps; LGBT urban communities to support and empower rural LGBT population; enhancement of advocacy activities through networks and local government to better design an inclusion strategy; and monitoring of budget for implemented inclusion strategies. Main challenges are aligned with achieving more protection for LGBT communities; reduce potential risk of violence; and address structural causes, pushing forward a progressive and inclusive vision; and fighting intolerance for diversity within Christian organizations.

 ·          Youth Exclusion & Stigmatization. In Guatemala, the strategies being used to tackle the risk of violence for young populations are beneficiary groups contributing to the promotion of peaceful coexistence; participation in observatory on human rights of target groups; advocacy with local governments so that they consign funds to implement strategies; promotion of advocacy networks so that public institutions create strategies of inclusion; and the use of arts activities.

On the afternoon, CBM representatives facilitated an interactive and dynamic meeting orientated to review thoughts regarding disability inclusion work, and opening up the space of discussion.

Some of the key topics of the meeting were:

-           Explanation of CBM structural organization and main areas of work.

-           Introduction of concrete and fundamental tools to support human rights based approach in the disability field such as the CRPD.

-           Guidelines on collecting data for programme development. These processes should be guided by a purpose and a previous assessment on the specific needs of that community, and data should be collected accordingly. The Washington group of questions wasn’t originally designed to be used in the non-profit sector, but is now vastly used in the field. In addition, data should be change and be adjusted from programme to programme, as to fully capture people’s needs.  

-            Difference between a Disability People Organization (DPO) and Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs).

-           Highlight of the importance of establishing an active collaborative approach with DPOs, people with disabilities, disability social movements in all topics related and impacting them. All people with disabilities should have the space to represent their own voice, in topics impacting their life. Concretely, Christian Aid was encouraged to establish consultation with people with disabilities in the different inclusive programmes.

-           Utilizing the CRPD for advocating for disability inclusion. For example, budget lines should be requested for being added in proposals when the requirement is in compliance with the CRPD. 

-           Christian Aid El Salvador Office shared a concern related to gender based violence of particularly women with disabilities, and the question on how could this be approached. In this relation, CBM staff shared experiences from Nepal and Philippines, where the work has been focused in not only strengthening the individual, but to strengthen accessibility standards within the system. For example, in Nepal, extensive work was held with the justice system to build capacity on how to receive claims from people with disabilities. In addition, the need of coordination of intersectionality is needed, for example disability social movement and women social movement, to drive together an agenda that is cohesively inclusive of all women and people with disabilities.