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Sunday, 6 December 2015

True inclusion ( There is a need for greater collaboration among organisations working for the disabled )

Since the promulgation of the new constitution in September, Nepal has formally become a federal democratic republic. This has triggered lively debates on the issue of inclusive development.

Unfortunately, development planning and its benefits are yet to reach people with disabilities. And none of the development frameworks can be considered innovative and progressive if they overlook people with disability.

Further, exclusion of people with disabilities in Nepal can hamper its goal to graduate to a developed country by 2020. According to a study by Robert Metts titled ‘Disability issues, trends, and recommendations for the World Bank, the estimated economic losses due to excluding people with disabilities in low and middle-income countries currently stands between $473.9 to 672.2 billion a year. The UN further estimates that 82 percent of all people with disabilities live beneath the poverty line, living on less than one-dollar-a-day.

Building on the present

Since 1998, equal rights, accessibility, empowerment and development continue to be a priority for the international community as well as Nepal while formulating slogans to commemorate International Day of the people with disabilities. But disability is still isolated from development initiatives taken by bilateral, multilateral development partners and the corporate sector in Nepal. Despite some positive policies and provisions, there is a glaring absence of figures and facts about disability inclusion in Nepal. Of course disability can be booked as a thematic development agenda, but doing so might isolate the issue from the mainstream development framework. Disability is usually left on the shoulder of stand-alone projects like Community Based Rehabilitation Programmes (CBR) or projects pursued by national and international non-governmental organisations. And the lack of coordination among these programmes and organisations is one of the root causes that quarantine disability from mainstream development agendas. But the implementation of the Local Governance and Community Development Programme (LGCDP) could be a step towards ending the exclusion.

The Community Development Programme is the largest decentralisation effort in Nepal and is one of the major initiatives taken by the government to promote right-based development and ensure quality basic services to all, particularly disadvantaged communities, while warranting  local services through established institutions and systems. The main objective of the programme is to reduce poverty through local governance and community development and, thus, community participation and empowerment is crucial for it to become a success. However, the programme is not sufficiently able to facilitate people with disabilities to tap state benefits.

Addressing disability through empowerment programmes and different community-level mechanisms would go a long way in addressing the needs of the disabled people. Integrating disability in mechanisms such as the Community Development Programme will also fulfill the state’s commitment to United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities which requires ‘full and effective participation and inclusion in society’. Further, almost all the districts in the country have access to the disability network led by National Federation of the disabled Nepal. Despite their wider presence across the country than any other state-led programme for the differently abled, the disability network is not in coordination with Community Development Programme which is worrying.

Meanwhile, community-based rehabilitation programme is the only government-led programme that targets empowerment, livelihood and physical rehabilitation of the people with disabilities in Nepal. But the Rehabilitation Programme always faces budgetary crisis because of its isolated existence. So for the Community Development Programme to triumph, it would be best if the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development coordinate with each other and support it. Then the programme would be able to yield a wider positive impact on the quality of life of the citizens including people with disabilities. The LGCDP can also play a vital role to reduce poverty among the people with disabilities.

Way forward

However, ensuring inclusion of disability in the LGCDP framework is challenging, though they can be resolved gradually. Since barriers to inclusion for the disabled people are customarily found with regards to accessibility, awareness and participation issues can be promptly realised with a slight adjustment to the existing framework. So LGCDP can take a couple of adaptive measures such as adaptation for advancement of community empowerment and development benefits to the marginalised people including those who have disabilities. Immediate adaptation may include managing data of service recipients with disabilities, guaranteeing their participation in community-level empowerment committees and mechanisms, providing support for them to establish small businesses, developing cross referral mechanism with disabled people’s organisations for physical rehabilitation and other social services for those who come into contact with the Community Development Programme or identified disabled people’s organisations, and recognising the latter as demand groups which are capable of identifying the needs of the people with disabilities. In the immediate, the national management committee can send a prompt circulation to its mechanisms to ensure participation of the people with disabilities in different Village Development Committee-level mechanisms in coordination with local disability networks.

Rather than having numerous agencies create new services in the community for different interest groups, the mainstream programme should proactively ensure full and effective participation and empowerment of people with disabilities.

Gohiwar is Livelihood Officer at Handicap International. The views expressed in this article is entirely personal

Source: Khatmandu Post , E Kantipur, 6th Dec 2015 

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