Thursday 6 February, Bengaluru, India – The World Health Organisation’s 2011 World Report on Disability says that 15 percent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. In India alone, it is estimated that there are up to 80 million people with disabilities.
Disability movements across the world have seen significant legislative gains over the last 15 years—from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006 to India’s own disability rights bill passed in 2016. But leading rights advocates and experts gathered in Bengaluru this week say there’s more work left to do for the full impact of policies to be felt.
Yesterday marked the end of a 3-day workshop convened by the Commonwealth Foundation to help human rights advocates and disabled people’s organizations share strategies on how to advance rights for persons with disabilities in India and their own countries.
Amba Salelkar, a lawyer and international legal advisor specializing in disability law, is one of the experts from India leading one of the workshop sessions. She has spent her career across Asia advocating for policy reform in the areas of gender, disability, and mental health. Explaining why she has joined this week’s workshop, Amba said:
‘The opportunity to collaborate with DPO organizations around the world was immense. I was happy to learn so much from their work and I hope to support them in future projects.’
As well as rights advocates and legal experts, the conference brought together grassroots activists, NGO leaders, and government officials.
Mr. V S Basavaraju, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in Karnataka, India, commented:
‘The DPO [disabled people organization] sector is gaining momentum and strength in India. There is a huge recognition from the government of the need to get the voices of DPOs heard to help determine the kind of change the government needs to make in its approach. It was a pleasure to share India’s experience with civil society organizations in the Commonwealth.
Each of the participating organizations, visiting from Bangladesh, Kenya, and further afield, are determined to put people with disabilities at the center of their work and in dialogue with decision-makers and governments.
Florence Kibruthu from Action Network for the Disabled, Kenya (ANDY), added:
‘The workshop has provided me with new strategies from partners in India and other countries on how to improve our relationships with government, international bodies, and the media towards improving disability rights. I will be returning to Kenya with new knowledge and advocacy techniques that will benefit ongoing projects and the disability movement.’
Gillian Cooper, Programme Manager for Knowledge, Learning, and Communications at the Commonwealth Foundation, added:
‘Events such as this are rare chances for project leaders to engage other powerful advocates in their field. Every context is different but sharing experiences and strategies will help these crucial projects and leaders apply fresh approaches to their work, and continue advancing disability rights in India and at home.’
The Commonwealth Foundation hopes that events such as these can help pave the way for a more inclusive society, by strengthening the civil society organizations and leaders that are vital to advancing disability rights.