Before the emergence of the Convention, there was already awareness amongst people with disabilities. But when the Convention was signed and we started to disseminate it, we found that there was an awakening, and that it sparked a trigger in people with disabilities who became aware of their own strength through the Convention. In particular, the Convention gave them confidence in themselves and they started to keep an increasingly watchful eye on what States were implementing in relation to the rights of persons with disabilities. In short, the Convention began raising awareness, which helped us to move forward towards the inclusion of people with disabilities.
With the Convention, we feel that there are more and more actions taken, giving a voice to people with disabilities, and enabling them to take the floor. Persons with disabilities are granted access to information, which was impossible before for certain types of impairments. We also see that all the texts that are drafted - at least in their development phase - include a dimension related to disability. These are improvements that can be observed in the field of legislation, at a political level, and also in terms of the resources allocated by the Government to the Disabled People’s Organizations that belong to the Federation of Associations by/for Persons with Disabilities. All this acknowledges that this work has become part of the missions assigned to the State.
The Convention also had implications at an individual level. Personally, it helped me to understand that I have a role to play in society, in the life of my community. And, in general, it also showed that people with disabilities are able to do things. My first observation, when we started to provide training as part of the first project MIRAZO in Tamatave, was that the perception of people with disabilities by the community had changed. People really enjoyed seeing persons with disabilities acting as trainers, especially in the area of rights. And above all, this way of working changed their negative perception of disability, suggesting that persons with disabilities can be productive like everyone else.
Hugues Rakoto Ramambason
The contributions of the Convention are multiple. First of all, for a number of years now, people with disabilities have become aware that they are rights-holders just like everyone else, that they must enjoy their human rights just like as everyone else. This awareness is very important, because it gave birth to many movements claiming the rights of people with disabilities. I still remember the last election in Niger. We had 7 legislative candidates, to elect the members of the National Assembly. This had never happened before in the history of people with disabilities. We had had two candidates in 2011, but this also was shortly after the Convention. And in the local level elections, there were 50 candidates. This shows unprecedented awareness, related to a willingness to participate in the decision-making processes in the country. In Niamey, we even had one of our members who was appointed Deputy Secretary General of the Governorate of Niamey. Her work was much appreciated during the last President of the Republic's tenure. There is also a sports councilor at the presidential level in charge of issues related to culture and sports. We also have task officers: blind people and people with physical disabilities, in the president's administration and the prime minister's administration. One might say that change is underway.
Before the Convention, people with disabilities were not represented in decision making processes. Now, if you are not represented in the local committees, this means that when the village elaborates its action plan, your concerns are not taken into account. But we have seen that since the Convention, the local committees increasingly include people with disabilities and their representative organizations in the development of action plans, so that concerns related to disability are taken into account in the development of these plans. It is all the more important because, if their concerns are not included at the development phase, it is likely that people with disabilities will not be considered at all in the implementation phase. These are significant changes we are aware of. Moreover, some people with disabilities who are now appointed at decision making positions, which was not the case before.
Of course, there was this fear before to leave the house, there was this stereotypical view from society. Now, I think many people with disabilities are participating in society, in various activities, either in their private life or in NGOs, even in political parties. We see that there is already this inclusion, this participation of people with disabilities.
In my everyday work, we often talk about the participation of people with disabilities as a crucial issue. Participation can be found in the Convention’s principles and was at the center of Disabled People’s Organizations’ advocacy during the negotiation process (which is reflected in the “Nothing About Us Without Us” motto). For example, when we talk about the organization of a service, it is easier now to put an emphasis on the participation of people with disabilities. According to the Convention, this participation is not desired or optional, it is really mandatory. The Convention manages to go far on this issue, it gives a central role to people with disabilities and their representative organizations for all issues relating to them. This does not sound like much, but you can imagine that there were people who wanted to stick to a more paternalistic approach to disability, and/or an approach dominated by health professionals and social workers. Power is not given, you have to take it. This remains a battle to be fought by disabled people and their representative organizations. And although the outcome is never certain, the Convention is undoubtedly a significant weapon in this daily battle
One of the lessons that came out of the Convention is to always include people with disabilities, which was translated in the following motto: “Nothing About Us Without Us”. The participation of people with disabilities helped to produce a text of true quality through raising awareness amongst delegates. […] Things have changed, now we might be tempted to say: “Nothing Without Us - At All”, meaning that disability shall be considered as a cross-cutting issue across all policies. This approach can be hard to understand sometimes, in so far as the conception of specific programs and specific laws still carries on. Now, thanks to the Convention and the SDGs, we have demonstrated that we can contribute to changing the world.
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