Volume 3 Issue 9 - May 01, 2005

Networking for strength

D.P.I.-Asia Pacific regional workshop and assembly in Bangkok deliberated on several important disability issues in the region. Dr. Anita Ghai and Ram Goel provide a first-hand report.

Picture of the participants

A significant event concerning disabled persons recently concluded in Thailand. D.P.I. (Disabled Peoples’ International) Asia Pacific Region had organised a regional training workshop on ‘Capacity-building for Persons with Disabilities: Towards rights-based society in Asia-Pacific Region’. The 9th D.P.I.-Asia Pacific Regional Assembly had been concurrently organised from 10 to 14 April in Bangkok, Thailand. It was attended by about 60 delegates from 22 countries from the Asia Pacific region. The Indian delegation, led by Javed Abidi, Secretary General, D.P.I.-India, comprised eight people.

The first day started with the customary opening ceremony. Ms. Ponomwan Boontem, Chairperson, The Council of Disabled People of Thailand (D.P.I.–Thailand), welcomed the guests. She said that Thailand has closely followed the progress of the Draft UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons. Mr. Wanlop Phloytabtim, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Thailand, informed that the Thai Government emphasises the equality, rights and dignity of all people, especially of persons with disabilities, who are also protected by the Rehabilitation of the Disabled Act of 1991. Thailand has also received global recognition for its efforts in this regard.

The workshop started with the first technical session on orientation about the Biwako Millennium Framework (B.M.F.) for Action towards an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. There was consensus that the B.M.F. was not being implemented properly by the concerned governments. The action plan for the participants was to thus work as a pressure group so that the BMF Framework could be implemented in its full and final form, and in its true spirit.

The next technical session examined the bi-directional relationship between poverty and disability. It was stressed that real inclusion would imply that disabled people at the lowest rung of the economic structure get a chance to participate in the struggle for rights.

Of the issues taken up on the second day of the workshop, one was the issue of women with disabilities. Supattraporn Taratikom, a young Thai woman who has sold 5,000 copies of her book relating the story of the accident that changed her life overnight when she became a disabled person, flagged off the discussion. It was accepted by disabled female and male participants alike that women with disabilities faced a double disadvantage. Representatives from the developed countries (for instance, Australia) were also in agreement. It was emphatically recognised that disabled women should be given more opportunities to come forward in their national Disabled Peoples’ Organisations; role models should be highlighted; and that women’s movement should be linked with mainstream women’s movements both at the national and international levels.

The next session was on the UN Convention. Venus M. Ilagan, Chairperson, Disabled Peoples' International, gave the historical sketch as well as the current status of the Convention. She felt that work for the Convention would be strengthened if disabled people could attend the ad-hoc meetings more regularly and if the national delegation had the representation of disabled people. The participants got the opportunity to get an insight into the UN Convention’s drafting. The Chairperson encouraged a pro-active stance on the Convention.

Picture of a group discussion

The third day started with an overview of communications. Moira Horgan-Jones from the D.P.I. Headquarters shared the ways in which communications between national assemblies could be improved. It was felt that it was important to strengthen the communication network within the National Assemblies as well as with Headquarters.

The last day of the training started with a deliberation of some critical issues. Some of these were:
• Communications.
• Conventions, B.M.F.
• Strengthening the Regional office – Fund raising, budgeting, cross disability, full participation of people with different disabilities, appropriate use of resources.
• Mentoring and networking.
• Training at, and strengthening of, the National Assemblies.
• Diversity – gender, youth.
• Reference tools, employment, education.
• Monitoring.

This was followed by a short analysis of the regional needs of the Asia-Pacific Region. This analysis was then made the foundation for evolving a strategic plan for the next two years.

The all-important 9th Regional Assembly of D.P.I.-Asia Pacific, an election meeting, was held on the last day. Acknowledging India’s importance, D.P.I.-Asia Pacific’s Regional Council co-opted India as one of its Regional Council Member.

The deliberations concluded with a river cruise and dinner. The disabled participants proved that whether it was a struggle for rights or a dance, they are matchless.

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