Two partners from Serbia and one from the U.S. joined forces to reimagine the use of the media as a platform for disability rights advocacy. Media can be a powerful tool for empowerment. The rapidly changing media landscape gives people with disabilities the tools to tell their stories directly.
“The media have perhaps the most important role in disability advocacy,” said Jelena Jovovic of the Novi Sad School of Journalism in Novi Sad, Serbia. “We receive the majority of our information through the media and, based on this information, we form our attitudes.”
Jelena, along with Mima Ruzicic-Novkovic of Center Upright Living, a Disabled Peoples’ Organization in Novi Sad, and Beth Haller and Rhonda Greenhaw of Towson University’s Department of Mass Communication located in Maryland, USA, met in Serbia for a week to jumpstart their collaborations.
How do you describe a partnership that not only achieves its goals, but transforms the entire way in which each partner works? MIUSA's Empower Partnerships program simply calls it, “Team Macedonia.” With support from the U.S. Department of State, MIUSA brought together organizations from around the world for a new style of collaborative program designed to advance disability rights.
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.
Haziq sings a solo in front of his classmates at the closing ceremony of his weeklong reading camp. It’s a small crowd, and he hasn’t memorized the lyrics. Instead, Haziq is reading them from a screen at the front of the room. It may not seem like much, but to Haziq, it could be the very turning point of his life. And it took three people traveling halfway around the world and back to get him there.
Kimberly Tissot, Executive Director of Able South Carolina, heard the determination in the voices of her partners in the Dominican Republic: “We need to know how it is possible for you to be independent in the U.S., and how to make those changes here.”
Despite the pouring rain, women from all over Homa County in Western Kenya gathered in a classroom at the local college. The women came alone, or maybe with an aide, a guide or interpreter; some had a wheelchair, others crutches, but all came with a singular purpose — to learn about how to end gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities.
“Ensuring people with disabilities have access to health care in your communities largely depends on you.” This was Christiana Yaghr’s message, communicated in sign language, to 27 women with diverse disabilities in the small northern Ghanaian town of Wa. Representing regions throughout the country, many of the participants had traveled for hours to this workshop, the first of its kind, to learn not only about HIV/AIDS prevention but also about how to ensure that women with disabilities have access to services and information.
The Building an Inclusive Development Community manual is a toolkit for development agencies and others concerned with the inclusion of people with disabilities at all levels and in all areas of the international development process. The manual includes expert opinion, techniques and guidelines, resource lists, and examples of best practices from around the world.
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Achieving equality for people with disabilities depends on an empowered civil society that actively demands rights, transparency, and accountability from the government. For Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs) to be most effective in their advocacy, they must include the diversity of the disability community, and tap into the power of disabled women leaders.
Never underestimate the power of disabled women.
Especially when they’re WILD women fighting their way to the forefront of the social debates, strategic planning sessions, and discussions about ending violence, illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, and inaccessible health services.
Available to tour national and international galleries and cultural spaces, the Brilliant & Resilient exhibition is a unique exhibition featuring a collection of photographs and personal stories of women with different types of disabilities, all alumni of Mobility International USA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD). Their powerful portraits and vignettes illustrate the issues that significantly impact their lives, including access to education, employment, political power, reproductive health services, and HIV/AIDS and violence prevention.
Women and girls with disabilities face double discrimination based on disability and gender. They are more likely to experience violence, abuse, and poor health than men with disabilities. They are less likely to have opportunities for education and employment, or access to critical services such as disaster aid or HIV&AIDS prevention programs.
If women and girls with disabilities are so vulnerable to human rights violations, why, then, are so many of them being excluded from the life-saving and life-enhancing development programs that exist in their communities?
Youth with disabilities are amongst the most marginalized and poorest of all the world’s youth. They commonly face more discrimination and severe social, economic, and civic disparities as compared with those without disabilities, especially in developing countries.
Yet, youth programs seldom address issues of youth with disabilities, much less include them into activities.
Disability inclusion in all phases of emergency response and preparedness is crucial, from disaster risk reduction preparedness, prevention and mitigation to disaster relief, rehabilitation and recovery. Utilize the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to ensure international cooperation provides accessible and inclusive humanitarian responses.
People with disabilities in developing countries often represent the poorest of the poor, yet they are typically overlooked in the development agenda. Poverty reduction strategies must include people with disabilities to achieve development goals.
Economic development programs such as microfinance have revolutionized efforts to fight poverty by providing financial services to people previously conceived as dependent on charity. Such financial services have empowered and enabled people, particularly women, to take control of their lives and contribute to their societies.