Do you include people with disabilities in your programs?
By Anne Nyeggen, the Atlas Alliance
72 participants – Norwegian and Nepalese – from various organisations working in long-term development and in humanitarian aid and – not at least – from disabled peoples organisations (DPO) spent the two days networking, discussing, teaching and learning how to move forward on this important topic.
The NGO seminar was organized by Plan International Norway, the Stromme Foundation and the Atlas Alliance. The Atlas Alliance was in charge of the Disability Inclusive Development Training together with their Nepalese partners.
H.E. Mr Kjell Tormod Pettersen, the Norwegian Ambassador to Nepal, made encouraging opening remarks about the prospects of Nepal, but also some critical comments as to the speed of the reconstruction process: – There are great possibilities ahead for Nepal if you manage to stabilize your political government. Then foreign investors will come, as they have done in so many other challenged countries, Mr. Pettersen promised the audience.
Hard life for people with disabilities
Dr. Bishnu Bhandari, Executive Member of the National Reconstruction Authority (GoN) gave a status report on the scope and progress of the reconstruction. The government has made substantial efforts: They have managed to rebuild houses and public spaces and also grant financial support as well as cheap loans to the affected people. However, Dr. Bishnu soon received questions from the audience: – The government provided new houses for the earthquake victims, but nothing more. How do they think people could survive without any other support such as food and livelihood? Mr. Limbu, Director of Nepal Association of the Blind – NAB, asked. – How can disabled people living in remote villages access these grants and loans, which are only available through banks far away from the villages? Ms. Tika Dahal from National Federation of the Disabled Nepal (NFDN) followed up. Both NAB and NFDN hope the reconstruction authorities will consider the remarks in their future work as both livelihood and access to loans and grants are crucial for people with disabilities.
Nothing about us without us!
Which DPO have you contacted to make your program inclusive? An obvious question to ask when working on adapting services and plans to people with disabilities. – We feel a bit embarrassed. We have a firm objective to make education inclusive and work actively on it at the Early Childhood Education Centre (ECEC), but until now, we have not made contact with any Disabled People’s Organisations for our inclusive education program, Ms. Reiny de Wit, Head of the Centre says. She tells us that ECEC is a teacher-training center and that they have trained blind teachers in Early Childhood Development and teachers of disabled children, and that they have consulted DPOs in this work. – However, for our Inclusive Education course we commit to invite DOP colleagues for their input. Especially the words ’nothing about us without us’, have convinced me of that. Until now, we have already talked to Nepal Disabled Women Association (NDWA) and Mr. Limbu in NAB at the seminar. We will continue to contact and consult the DPOs in the future, that is for sure, Ms. Reiny de Wit asserts.
Change of mindset most important
Contact with DPOs is crucial, so is the change of the mindset among development workers and society, such as: Inclusion is a fundamental human right and a task for the society, which is the one that needs to change and adapt, not the disabled individual. – People with disabilities do not need your charity or pity; they need to have their rights fulfilled, like any other human being and citizen. It is not that hard to fulfill, Ms.Cindy Greer from the Norwegian Association for Disabled (NAD) and Ms.Meena Paudel from Nepal Disabled Women Association, heads of the training sessions, confirmed.
Several NGO participants expressed commitment to the training and topic. – It is great to be here, and I’m so happy to participate in group work with people from a Disabled People’s Organisation like NAB. They tell me straight up what I do wrong. This is a good approach for a real inclusive development, Ms. Sarita Dhungana from Nepal Red Cross Society said.
Changes to come in the development programs?
The organisers are eager to see results. – Apparently the seminar came in due time. The development organisations need to get their acts together and consider inclusion in all aspects, Mr. Marius Rohdin Karlsen from Plan International Norway, said. However, also the Disabled People’s Organisations need to widen their focus. – There is still a gap of sharing of information between DPOs and mainstream NGOs on how to make the programs more inclusive for people with disabilities. We need to fill that gap now. We will take steps to make contact with the NGOs, but I hope that also the mainstream NGOs will take the initiative to cooperate, because they need us to make their programs inclusive for persons with disabilities, Ms. Reenu Lohani, advisor to NFDN said to the audience.