Tag Archives: advocacy

International Day of People with Disabilities: Include Us

This post has been written by Elle Spring is an Advocacy and Communications Officer at CBM Australia. Her passion is storytelling for change and she has recently returned from collecting stories of the lived experiences of people with disabilities in Vanuatu.

Globally, one billion people have a disability, and 80 per cent live in developing countries. In developing countries, women comprise three quarters of people with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities are disproportionately represented and are often the furthest left behind.

To mark International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) on 3 December 2017, CBM has created a video to highlight their unique experience, the contributions they have to make, and the importance of including women and girls with disabilities in all development efforts.


Meet Nelly from Vanuatu; a leader, an advocate and the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA) – the national Disabled People’s Organisation.

Nelly, the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA)

Nelly, the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA) ©Erin Johnson/CBM Australia

“I’m happy that I am a woman with disabilities and I am a leader…I’m not only advocating for me, but for my members as well.

However, this is not common. “In Vanuatu, you hardly see women with disabilities leading different organisations. It’s really hard because of the barriers they face.”

Women and girls with disabilities face multiple layers of discrimination; creating barriers which stop them from achieving their full potential.

“Women with disabilities face double, and most times triple discrimination, because they are a woman, and they have a disability, and the abuses they face or the discrimination they face in society.”

“When you come out from your house and someone is staring at you, its discrimination already and you feel like you’re not part of the community – that’s what our women and girls with disabilities are facing in the community.”

Women and girls with disabilities are often hidden away by families, excluded from decision-making – even about their own bodies – and are less likely to attend school than girls without disabilities. In developing countries just 32.9 per cent of girls with disabilities complete primary school.

“Most of our women and girls [with disabilities] have not had education, they are left at home.”

Without education, it makes securing formal employment far more difficult, especially when many women and girls with disabilities are unaware of their rights.

“Most women with disabilities, they are volunteers – they do work without any pay and we always advocate for their rights. If this lady did the same work as a woman without disability, you need to pay her the same amount.”

“Women and girls with disabilities should know their rights. They need to know they have the same rights as anyone else. They have to be empowered and live as anyone else.”

The United Nations (UN) theme for International Day of People with Disabilities this year is: Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all. It draws attention to the changes that must be made to ensure the 2030 Agenda – which aims to leave no one behind – can be realised. As former Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon stated:

To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritise gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world will never realise 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realise their full potential.

Without including women and girls with disabilities in all development efforts, the inclusive world envisioned by the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved, and women and girls with disabilities will continue to be furthest left behind.

“We need to work towards a society that is inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based for all. Women with disabilities need to become leaders for tomorrow. We are agents of change.”

“If more women with disabilities are taking leadership positions and advocating for the rights of women and girls with disabilities, and all people with disabilities, I believe that we will not leave anyone behind. Include us!”

Getting ready for the last step on the EU review of the implementation of the CRPD

The European Union (EU) signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2011. As a State Party, the EU published its initial report on the implementation of the CRPD in June 2014. After this initial report, Committee Members published a List of Issues by which further information on specific articles was asked, and the EU replied to this List of Issues in June 2015. The last step of this review will end in September, with the adoption of the Concluding Observations that will encourage the further implementation of the CRPD by the European Union.

Persons with disabilities and their representative organisations are encouraged to participate in the review process by submitting supportive documentation and by participating in the CRPD sessions through side events. CBM, as member of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), was involved in the process of the EU review. CBM has also supported the work of the European Disability Forum (EDF) as the umbrella organisation of persons with disabilities in the European Union.

Why it is important to follow this review?

The EU is the first regional body on signing and ratifying the UN CRPD. In addition, it is the largest donor on International Cooperation and one of the most influential stakeholders at International fora. By supporting a disability-inclusive Development Cooperation, the EU can promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society all around the world.

What did we do so far?

What are the next steps?

The 14th session of the UN CRPD will take place from 17th August to 4th September. On 26th August, CBM as member of IDDC, will organise a side event in which Priscille Geiser (Chair of IDDC) and Hellen Grace Asamo (Member of the Parliament of Uganda) will participate. This event will also count on the participation and support of EDF. In addition, CBM will also participate in the side event organised by EDF on 27th August.

CBM will advocate for the inclusion of Article 11 and Article 32 in the Concluding Observations. This will strengthen the EU advocacy work in the future years, and will promote a disability-inclusive approach to EU External Actions.

CRPD committee issues statement on disability-inclusive DRR

A boat with accessibility ramp

A rescue boat with accessibility features from a flood-prone region of Bangladesh

As a member of the UN CRPD committee, I am very proud that we have issued a formal statement on the need to specifically include persons with disabilities in the process leading up to



the 3rd world conference on disaster risk reduction in Japan in 2015, and also inclusion in the outcome recommendations.

How did this happen?

Margareta Wahlström, UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) took time out of her busy schedule to talk to UN CRPD committee members about disability and DRR in the 12th session. The result of her visit was a strong commitment by members to issue a statement on disability-inclusion as the preparations for the world conference commence.

Why include disability?

Firstly, when the United Nations involves civil society in preparations and negotiations of particular world conferences, it does so through its ‘Major Group’ structures.  However, persons with disabilities do not have a specific major group to call their own, hence we have to ask to be included and participate, in an accessible way, every step of the way…

Secondly, the impact of a disaster or conflict is greater for persons with disabilities, we are more at risk during disasters and conflicts,  and disability is often the result of conflict or disaster;  read more from CBM’s Inclusive Emergency Response Unit.

If you are interested in this subject, you can read fellow blogger, Gordon Rattray’s wonderful stories.



Moving on from vulnerability

It’s not even the first day of the conference, yet I was inspired.

What did it? Well, it was the ability of Monthian Buntan (who is on the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Former Senator of Thailand) to motivate and simplify…

A man resenting using slides with large audence (30-70 people)

Monthian Buntan at the Multi stakeholders pre-conference on disability-inclusive DRR

I’m attending the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in Bangkok. It is a venue for countries, organisations and individuals to meet and discuss the way forward in reducing disaster risk in the region. And it is the final regional inter-governmental meeting in Asia before the completion of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-15 and the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Senda, Japan, March 2015.


For CBM and our partners in the Disability inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DiDRRN) the priority is ensuring the active participation of people with disability in DRR policy and practice post-2015.

I know, that all sounds complicated, so let’s get back to the inspiration and simplification!

This morning I was at the Multi stakeholders pre-conference on disability-inclusive DRR (discussion before the big events start proper tomorrow). Here were many good speeches and quotes, and a short discussion, but the inspiring bit for me was Monthian Buntan’s insistence – and everyone’s agreement – that persons with disabilities do not need to be classed as ‘vulnerable’.

“We are vulnerable because we are not perceived to be capable of making any contribution, but only recipients of help and custodial care.

“We will remain vulnerable and excluded should we not be able to participate effectively in all planning and implementing stages of DRR due to lack of genuine accessibility.”

Three boxes with texts 'accessibility, participation and inclusion', linked by doule-ended arrows forming a triangle

Explaining the link between accessibility, participation and inclusion

Mr Buntan talked about how being inclusive means that people with disabilities should be able to contribute and enjoy the benefit of DRR.

If this was music to my ears, he then went on to explain very simply how inclusion, participation and accessibility are the three interdependent factors which will help reposition this shift in perception towards disability…

  • It is accessibility that determines the level of participation, and vice versa
  • It is both accessibility and participation which determines inclusion

“If persons with disabilities are to be truly regarded as development partners and rights holders through Disability Inclusive DRR, these three factors must be seriously taken into account.

For me, this is common sense, essential action and all explained as simply as possible… I’ll try to spot similarly easy things in the coming days though cannot promise… bear with me! (follow on Twitter too @gordonrattray)

Resources to advocate for disability inclusive post-2015 framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (HFA2)