Representatives of the campaign “Agenda 50” from five pilot cities discussed achievements in creating local agendas for implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
New experience - new opportunities
A network meeting of the campaign “Agenda 50” participants, aimed at implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the local level took place in Ratomka, in the suburbs of Minsk. The citizens of Stoubcy, Stolin, Ščučyn, Babruysk and Valožyn did have something to discuss and to share with their colleagues. Someone, like the guests from Stolin, have achieved success in understanding the tasks of the Convention and the goals necessary for the implementation of the local action plan; someone, as participants from Stoubcy, could boast having created not only their own agenda, but also having already signed one. But at whatever stage the coordinators of the agendas creation are, they all still have a lot of work to do.
The meeting participants. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service
As a representative of the non-profit organization “European House” (Denmark), Lene Petersen noted that it was not easy to bring together all organizations dealing with the problem of disability in the pilot cities in order to develop a joint strategy. However, the participants managed to create local agendas which subsequently should become a living instrument for the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities.
Lene Petersen. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service
During the meeting, representatives of each town/city spoke about the problems they were engaged in, studied, identified in the campaign course. In Stolin, for example, attention was drawn to the employment of people with disabilities, their independent living, barrier-free environment, and the lack of qualified personnel working with people with disabilities. Actual problems for Stoubcy were also the lack of barrier-free environment and the lack of awareness of people with disabilities about their rights. In Ščučyn, problems of low socialization and employment of people with disabilities were dealt with, and also the lack of social taxis and insufficient exterior and courtyard lighting. Representatives of Valožyn fought against discrimination of children with disabilities in educational institutions, against social prejudices, employers' fears, lack of buildings’ and rehabilitation facilities’ maintenance. And in Babruysk people tried to resolve issues such as self-isolation and dependent attitude of people with disabilities, their inequality in the perception of people without disabilities.
At the request of coaches from the TUS Foundation (Poland) Peter Todys and MalgorzataPeretyatkovich, the participants once again described the goals and actions they needed in order to resolve the problems described above.
Peter Todys (right) and Malgozhata Peretyatkovich (left). Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service
- I am very glad that I can conduct this process (campaign to create local agendas-EuroBelarus) in Belarus. I have worked in a similar way in Poland, but there are differences. I have respect for you, seeing how you are giving yourself to this work. For me, just as for you, it has been good experience. I will miss it, confessed Peter Todys.
European principles in Belarus is a real thing
During the meeting, the participants of the campaign “Agenda 50” shared their impressions on the study visit to the Kingdom of Denmark, which took place from October 30 to November 6 of this year. The organizer of the trip was the “European House”. Guests from Belarus visited the Ministry for Children and Social Affairs; the headquarter of the umbrella organization that brings together initiatives dealing with people with disabilities; the Danish Institute for Human Rights; social institution of the Bornholm Regional Municipality; the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment.
Anastasia Melnikova, Head of the Department of Territorial Center for Social Service of Stoubcy told about the fundamental principles of working with people with disabilities in Denmark. The first of these is theprinciple of sectoral responsibility. It lies in the fact that all departments are responsible for ensuring normal live for people with disabilities. The principle of equal opportunities foresees the provision of assistance to each person in order to fully unleash his/her potential. The principle of compensation determines personal orientation of all forms of support and assistance to people with disabilities. And finally, the principle of solidarity states that if a person does not have enough money for certain social services, the state provides them.
Anastasia Melnikova. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service
- When visiting each organization, we noted for ourselves some peculiarities. It was important to me that the main task there is to maximize the inclusion of people with disabilities, also in the labour market, said Anastasia Melnikova. Each municipality has a council on disability issues, and this is not a formal body: it makes decisions and makes relevant proposals for consideration to the parliament. The work on disability is "bottom up", and not vice versa, as we have it in our country.
Anastasia Melnikova remarked that in Belarus people are used to work in a completely different way. For example, our authorities require clear statistics on the number of people with disabilities in a region for each group, gender, and so on. While in Denmark, such statistics is not kept, it is simply not needed - and this has greatly surprised the Belarusian colleagues.
Anastasia has also noted that an individual approach to each person with a disability is applied in Denmark. It is an issue of great importance there that everyone does his/her own business. And not a single challenge related to disability is solved in the country without the participation of people with disabilities.
- I have been working in Belarus for 20 years already. Throughout these years, I’m constantly being told, "We cannot do what you do, this is like a science fiction." But you have already done it, and what you have achieved deserves respect”, commented Lene Petersen. The core of the study tour to Denmark was to trace the entire chain from the Convention to its practical implementation at the local level. All municipalities are responsible for making decisions on any disability issue. All of these similarly created their local agendas which differ from each other because they rely on local peculiarities.
In conclusion, the “European House” representative said that it was absolutely feasible to introduce European approaches to disability policy in Belarus. But for this, the campaign participants need to think through a lobbying scheme at the ministerial level for creating local agendas.
The material was prepared in the framework of the international project "Rights of People with Disabilities: agenda for Belarus (Agenda 50)".