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04/01/2011

Mainstreaming Disability: Time to Walk the Talk

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Mainstreaming disability is the key to putting disability issues on the world’s radar screen. Easier said than done. When the so called experts of disability mouth ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’, do they actually mean it? Hard to believe when at most such events people with disabilities take a back seat and professionals tell them what to do and how to do it. Or maybe one or two people with disabilities will take the stage for the sake of tokenism. But it is time to get out of the rhetoric and walk the talk. Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. who participated in the seminar organised by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (N.O.R.A.D.) in association with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development talks about the efforts made and how tough a call it is to break the glass ceiling.

For years together now, the movers and shakers of the disability sector have been talking about mainstreaming disability. One big reason why disability issues have lagged behind in the development agenda was/is because disability is being looked at in isolation. When we talk about education, we do not somehow include children with disability; when we talk about health, we forget about people with disabilities; when we talk about women’s rights; women with disabilities are never in the scheme of things. Talk is cheap, or so it is said. What matters is how to do it. After all, over the years millions of dollars have been pumped in by donors into development programmes without ensuring that disability is an integral component of these programmes.

In a bid to find answers to these questions, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (N.O.R.A.D.) in association with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development, Shuaib Chalklen, organised a seminar titled ‘Mainstreaming Disability in the Development Cooperation’ in Oslo, Norway on March 28 and 29. The who’s who of the International disability sector – from major donor countries to U.N. agencies to I.N.G.O.s to Disabled People’s Organisations (D.P.O.s) were a part of this seminar in an endeavour to find out how to convert the talk into action. The two day working seminar was inaugurated by Erik Solheim, Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development.

Dr. Liisa Kauppinen of the International Disability Alliance and past President of the World Federation of the Deaf set the tone of the seminar with her presentation. She emphasised on the need to include D.P.O.s in all developmental programmes. She also lamented the lack of support towards D.P.O.s and how people with disabilities are left out of bilateral cooperation. United Nations needs to lead by example which is not yet the case, she added.

Bjørg Skotnes, Director, Peace, Gender and Democracy Department of N.O.R.A.D. shared her experiences on gender mainstreaming and drew a parallel with the task at hand vis-à-vis disability. She also highlighted the common challenges and lessons that we could learn from that movement.

Other speakers included Simon Walker, Advisor, Human Rights and Disability, Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Malcolm Langford, Director, Social and Economic Rights Programme, Norwegian Center for Human Rights. Walker spoke about the need for disability to be clarified as a development issue. At times, Governments and others believe they are separate and that development comes first and disability rights after, he added. Walker also said that all programmes under international cooperation should explicitly promote C.R.P.D. Even today several disability related programmes which are actually against C.R.P.D. such as building segregated schools, institutions, etc. are being repackaged as disability rights work. Langford spoke about the issue of accountability and mechanisms that could be adopted - from indigenous ways to existing ones.

Five Working Groups were created on Primary Education, Attitudes and Awareness, Government to Government Cooperation, Multi-lateral Cooperation and Economy and Employment. These Working Groups were to come out with tangible recommendations through their discussions over two days.

To read the full article, visit: http://www.dnis.org/features.php?issue_id=7&volume_id=8&features_id=185