For two weeks in April 2017, ten professional leaders and policy-makers with and without disabilities from Pakistan convened in Eugene, Oregon and Berkeley, California, for the U.S./Pakistan Disability Policy Professional Exchange Program. The intensive 13-day program empowered people with disabilities, and their allies in government and civil society, to implement and enforce the rights of persons with disabilities in Pakistan.
The high-level delegation included individuals, positioned to be champions for disability inclusion, possessing the necessary influence to make sustainable changes in Pakistan. Delegates represented government agencies, Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs), as well as other relevant civil society organizations focused on educational, employment, and human rights.
Through interactive workshops, meetings and site visits, the delegates gained first-hand knowledge of American implementation of disability protection laws. They experienced inclusive, rights-based communities, in which independence, equal opportunities and full participation of citizens with disabilities are expected in school, work, and community life.
While in Eugene, the delegation had the opportunity to meet with community members and MIUSA supporters at an event hosted at the University of Oregon, “Champions of Inclusion: Perspectives from Pakistan”. The delegates shared the impact of their work in Pakistan, and highlighted lessons learned in the U.S. that will advance their current efforts.
Traveling to Berkeley, the group met with disability rights leaders in the birthplace of the disability rights movement. Workshops were hosted at the Ed Roberts Campus, a center that represents accessibility both with physical infrastructure and historical symbolism. One delegate reflected on these experiences by stating:
“Once we are united, we will be able to do more once we go back. The main point and the focus is unity, and that is what we will work upon.”
In September 2017, a team of legislative strategy expert trainers from the U.S. will visit Pakistan to continue supporting delegates in their efforts and will share lessons learned from the U.S. experience. The training will convene thirty-five grassroots leaders with disabilities from all provinces of the country to engage on the theme of disability rights law and policy enforcement.
MIUSA is proud to be working in partnership with Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP) based in Pakistan. The program is made possible through the generous sponsorship of the Cultural Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.