Before the Convention, little attention was paid in Indonesia to the rights of “diff-abled” people (see question below for a definition of this term), which were not well respected. At the time, things were still functioning under a charity approach. In 1995, I created an organization with my diff-abled friends, called “Equal Rights Now”, to claim our rights and draft a proposed law that we submitted to the government. This resulted in 1997 in the Law n° 4 about persons with disabilities [Act of the Republic of Indonesia Number 4, Concerning Disabled People]. We were quite disappointed when this law was issued. The government had made many restrictions, and the approach was based more on charity than on rights. As a consequence, we could not rely upon a law to fight for our rights, in a context in which the government was not doing much to fulfill these rights. Getting to school, getting a job, public facility accessibility were issues that were hardly addressed.
First of all, I had taken part in 5 preparatory meetings, organized in Bangkok by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. This UN commission had set up these consultations at a regional level in order to nurture the overall debate in New York for the drafting process of the Convention. The same thing happened in Africa, Latin America, and Europe. When I joined the assembly in Bangkok, I was interested in education, job opportunities, health, public facility accessibility and justice. Knowing that I had taken part in these meetings, Handicap International decided to send me to New York to participate in the Ad Hoc Committee meeting, as part of the South Project. This was in 2006. Before that, I had already worked with Handicap International, especially in disaster management. In New York, I joined the meetings of the South Project, created in order for leaders of Disabled People’s Organizations from the South to take part in the drafting process. There I met many friends, especially from Latin America. During the Ad Hoc Committee session, I met someone from the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations. As my hotel was located not so far from the embassy, it was easier for me to make contact with them. If I had any problems, they helped me to obtain references. Then, after the meetings, I was invited to take part in the discussions with the representative and the ambassador to help them to define a strategy. I had a good relationship with them.
In the meeting, I gave my opinion, I shared the results from what had been done in Bangkok on inclusive education, health insurance for diff-abled people, and quotas in the government and corporate job sector. I had brought with me the conceptual documents that came out of this work. I also wanted to share information about the situation in Indonesia, where there were no good regulations. Indeed, we needed to have consistent regulations, which could serve as a basis for our movement to force the government to fulfill our rights. My intention was to bring forth these issues as much as I could, knowing that I would also meet other people sharing the same concerns. This is what happened with the South Project meetings. I not only met some friends but, there were many other people too, and my hope was that together we would speak with a stronger voice.
Many holy books from different religions explain that God created us all in a perfect condition. Each of us has our own purpose in life, and God gave us our own instruments to solve our problems and perform our own tasks. For example, I consider that my blindness is an instrument that was given to me by God to fulfill my mission. As a matter of fact, I do not think that it is a disability. It is simply part of my perfection. Diff-abled people are not disabled. They just have different instruments and abilities. According to social movement theory, disability is part of our collective identity as a group. The word “diff-abled” reflects our mind, and signifies that we feel equal.
Coming back from New York, I still had good relationships with the foreign ministry. As the ratification was in the hands of the foreign ministry and the social ministry, I pushed the social ministry to send representatives to the last Ad Hoc Committee. We worked together with other organizations towards ratification. This required strong efforts. Together with Handicap International, we translated the Convention into Indonesian, and submitted it to the National Commission on Human Rights. The Convention was eventually ratified in 2011. After the Convention’s ratification, we advocated for the national government to issue a new law compliant with the CRPD. However, even before ratification, we had already started to work at the local level, and to submit draft regulations to local government, in compliance with the Convention that was being elaborated. At the same time, we were pushing the national government to ratify the Convention. Eventually, the Convention was ratified in November 2011, and local regulation was implemented in Yoggikarta in May 2012. We then pushed the national government to change existing regulation to make it compliant with the CRPD, and submitted a supporting draft to Parliament (this draft eventually resulted in Law n°4, adopted in 2016). The government stepped in, and is now leading national action planning in relation to the rights of diff-abled people. At a local level, our governor declared Yoggikarta as the province of inclusive education. We also have special health insurance for diff-abled people.
Even though we now have the Convention, the situation is that we are still far from having our rights fulfilled. This explains the name of our organization: “We Want Equal Rights Now”. If we really want to have our rights fulfilled, we have to focus disability advocacy upon governments, as well on other organizations, not to mention organizations of “diff-abled” people. Networking with other organizations such as labor organizations, or other organizations working in favor of children or the environment, seems to be an important issue. There is clearly a lot to achieve, in association with both diff-abled and other types of organizations. It is a great process to engage in. We also have to work with the media so that our voice is heard. I think that our voice can be stronger if we rely on the power of media.
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