When asked why they had chosen to work together, the Association of Parents with Disabled Children (APDC) and All for Education! (AFE) National Civil Society Coalition made a simple but powerful prediction about their partnership: “Our voices would be louder together.” Given the challenge they faced, all their voices were needed.
As in many countries, opportunities for children with disabilities in Mongolia are limited. APDC reports, “Fewer than 20% of disabled children benefit from education in school.” The impact is devastating for the children and their families. “Mostly women sit at home and look after the disabled children. If a child goes to school, then mothers will be able to work or have time to study.” As a result, “many families are at poverty level, and parents are themselves separated from society.”
But APDC and AEF were eager for change. They wanted Mongolian society to begin looking at disability from a civil rights perspective, beginning with inclusive education. “At the next stage, empowered parents and educated children will change society.”
Thus, the team went to work, each partner bringing its particular voice to the project. Made up of parents and caregivers of children with disabilities, APDC brought experiential knowledge of the discrimination children with disabilities and their families face. As a coalition of policy organization, AFE contributed expertise in the Mongolian political system and connections to public administrators.
In three years of partnership, the organizations made inroads, but they weren’t satisfied with the progress. Although they were expanding the network of parents and public officials that supported inclusive education, their success was limited when they struggled to put their policies into action. They needed another voice.
Through the Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities Program, they found that voice in TASH, a U.S.-based organization working to create full inclusion and participation of children and adults with significant disabilities in every aspect of their community.
And together, as Team Mongolia, their voices have soared, culminating in a $25,000 award from the U.S. Department of State to develop improved teacher training curriculum and best practices for implementing an inclusive education system in Mongolia.
A week-long training in Mongolia’s capital equipped 25 new activists on the importance of inclusive education for children with disabilities and how to best advocate and mobilize their communities for change.
During the Empower Partnership project, all the voices came together in Team Mongolia to create a chorus of support for children with disabilities and affect change.
The Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities program is administered by MIUSA and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State.