Ten years after its birth, we are entitled to ask what advancements have been made by the Convention, as far as its implementation and its ratification are concerned. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva must be the standard bearer and demand that all countries submit their reports. This must be a requirement, even for country funding.
Hatouma Gakou Djikine
Everything remains to be done. Authorities are becoming more aware, which is a good thing [...]. Now, we must be able to tackle the real problems faced by people with disabilities, first and foremost education. We need to launch awareness-raising campaigns to change minds and counter the reluctance towards the education of children with disabilities. We need to encourage the mobilization of human, material and financial resources, to ensure that education is inclusive and of quality [...] To face the challenges in terms of social protection, we need to think of some income-generating activities for families, or even of minimum survival income. We can also talk about the situation of the inaccessibility of health facilities; especially for women with disabilities, in particular with motor disability.
We want to share experiences about large inclusive policies in the sub-region, this is a great challenge. I firmly believe that we can build a joint strike force if we unite. We also want to take into account the challenge of education, especially with respect to people with disabilities. In fact, our States, by lack of knowledge or means, often limit themselves to policies that consist in opening specialized centers. However, these centers are run by associations. We want to go beyond that phase of special integration, and move towards policies allowing for many people with disabilities to be included in schools –if not all, as it is stated in the Convention. Therefore, States would need to move towards school systems inclusive of people with disabilities. Another great challenge is employment. Employment is the overall target. Not only does it lead to personal dignity, but it also allows for tackling larger socio-economic problems, to enable us living decent lives in inclusive societies.
Among the most important factors that can help realizing the Convention, one of the first is that my rights as a person with disabilities must be recognized. This can help me enjoying and exercising my fundamental rights to work, like access to employment. And in addition to that, I also wish that the persons with disabilities can have full access to an inclusive Education system [...] We must also educate the elites, University students, educational circles, since it is through knowledge, research, education that we can change the perception and behavior of society towards disability.
Hugues Rakoto Ramambason
It is good that the CRPD is building a momentum and growing in mass, with more people on board – lots of people from within the disability movement, but also from outside the disability movement. However, the same prejudices still exist. The old paradigm is still deeply rooted and widespread, and this is one of the biggest challenges. If I knew how to address this challenge, I would have already done it of course! One of the questions is: How can we find a way to reach people’s hearts? Generally, I start from my own experience, and people understand that when you’re locked up, you only feel worse, not better. This is my way of raising awareness.
The Convention has great potential, but there is something that everybody underestimated, and that is the empowerment of people without disabilities. I really think that people without disabilities need far more than awareness-raising. People are often scared to do the wrong thing, and as a consequence, they often end up doing nothing at all. If I were to renegotiate the Convention, I would rename Article 8 about Awareness-raising so that it refers to something in relation to empowerment. The idea is to build capacities and bring about change, so that people can feel more comfortable with issues relating to disability. The Convention has to be a lot stronger. There is something else that I am still trying to do, and that is to highlight the potential that the Convention has in relation to other human rights issues – the CRPD adds a lot of nuance and quality.
Hopes mainly rest upon civil society. The more civil society makes demands, the more progress there will be. If civil society remains passive, governments will advance on their own. It is also important that people with disabilities reach decision making positions. In my country, civil society is doing all the work, but it would be much easier if there were someone in a decision-making position specifically addressing the rights of persons with disabilities. I take as an example what women’s organizations have achieved in terms of political representation. They have been successful enough that nowadays it is rare that women’s rights are not taken into account. […] This carries a strong message to encourage the empowerment of civil society, and its participation and attention to the interests of the general public. Often, we tend to focus on specific topics, depending on our own interests. I think we must be more strategic and attend to politics as a whole, considering human rights as something integral.
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