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Partners reconfirm their faith in the spirit of N.D.N. and D.N.I.S.

It is the 10th year of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) and the Disability Act. It is a good time for us to look back before we look ahead. So we have done a critical analysis of both National Disability Network (N.D.N.) and Disability News and Information Service (D.N.I.S.), the two tools on which the organisation’s work is based. The task was assigned to MeenuBhambhani, and here she captures the essence of her Evaluation Report.

Disability movement in India is going through a phase of transition. This phase of transition started with the celebration of the 10th and the last ‘Walk to Freedom’ on 03 December 2006. It was celebrated with the theme of ‘Looking Back, Looking Ahead’. When one looked back, it was with a sense of pride and achievement, at the same time with an introspective eye for the inability to achieve all the aspirations of disabled people in India.In the last decade, several milestones were achieved in the field of disability. It all began with Javed Abidi filing a Public Interest Litigation (1997) in the Supreme Court to kick start the process of implementation of the Disability Act across the country. As a result of that litigation and subsequent vigil maintained by the disability sector, primarily by members of Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.) in Delhi and N.D.N. across the country, several other path-breaking and historical landmarks were realised.

These milestones could not have been achieved without the support of N.D.N. and the information generated by a powerful tool in the form of D.N.I.S. These tools of advocacy also needed evaluation in terms of their need, disability sector’s need, information needs of disabled people and how far these needs have been met. These tools of advocacy initiated by N.C.P.E.D.P. were supported by De Samvirkende Invalideorganisationer (D.S.I.).

In 2005, D.S.I. partnered with N.C.P.E.D.P. to give a major thrust to the above-mentioned initiatives by supporting a Project aimed at ‘Building a Collective Voice of Disabled People in India through Networking, Awareness Raising & Advocacy’. At the beginning of the Project, the strength of N.D.N. Partnerships was limited to 167 Districts covering 28 per cent of the total districts of India. Large scale advocacy aimed at policy change and big-bang awareness programmes were part of this Project. The Awareness Raising infrastructures like D.N.I.S. and N.C.P.E.D.P. Website had been put into place in 2003 itself, but till the beginning of this project these structures were in their initial phases of growth and their reach was minimal – limited to a few net savvy people.

With D.S.I.’s support it was envisaged to use the Awareness Infrastructures to the fullest potential and expand N.D.N. to cover 300 Districts across the country, both of which would form the wheels of the vehicle on which the disability rights movement will ride for achieving the larger mission, which is, equality of opportunities for disabled people in India.

The overall objective of the Project was to strengthen the disability movement in India by expanding and strengthening N.D.N., which is a cross disability information and advocacy network; by augmenting our awareness / communication infrastructure to ensure maximum reach and by facilitating advocacy at the National / Zonal / District level for policy change / implementation vis-a-vis disability.It had three specific objectives:

Objective 1. Expand the coverage of N.D.N. from 167 Districts (28 per cent coverage) to 300 Districts (50 per cent coverage) and strengthen N.D.N. Partners through communication and capacity building, for taking up advocacy at the District / State / Zonal level.

Objective 2. Augment the awareness / communication infrastructures (Website and D.N.I.S.) to establish them as national services, by not only including information and news from the various regions but also by extending their reach to the remotest corners of the country, in a systematic manner.

Objective 3. Undertake collective advocacy campaigns and research under N.D.N., for the purpose of policy implementation / change at the national / state level.

Evaluating partnership projects like the N.D.N. presented a number of practical challenges. The expansion of coverage of N.D.N. to 300 Districts was designed to achieve its objectives indirectly through State Partners and organisations that were not administered by N.C.P.E.D.P. or for that matter by D.S.I. Also, the intermediate and final outcomes of N.D.N. involve responses from additional organisations or groups that are beyond the direct control of the project.

The methodology used to evaluate N.D.N. and D.N.I.S. incorporates multiple lines of evidence drawn from key informant interviews and a review of programme-related files and documents. A broad range of key informants was interviewed. These included N.D.N. State Partners, disabled people, D.N.I.S. readers, past staff of N.C.P.E.D.P., Executive Director of N.C.P.E.D.P., some key Government officials and representatives of donor agencies. A brief questionnaire was sent to 12 key stakeholders out of which nine responded. They were then telephonically interviewed which was recorded. Once again, due to limitation of time, the sample size of key informants was not kept very large. However, gender, disability and regional balance was taken into account while deciding on the sample size.

The evaluation of the project shows that it has been largely effective in achieving its objectives. It has successfully contributed to social development with enhanced capacities through information sharing. D.N.I.S. has filled an essential gap related to authentic and credible information sharing within and outside the sector. The Project has contributed to policy change, the benefits of which would be reaped by generations to come.

It was also noted that the programme could be more effective if it was more decentralised, had more participation from the stakeholders and the capacities of Partners were further enhanced.

Evaluation findings showed that N.D.N. and D.N.I.S. have played a unique role, working to assist partners in the disability sector to address the social development needs and aspirations of persons with disabilities; and, to promote their inclusion and full participation as citizens in all aspects of Indian society.

The evaluation confirmed the many strengths of N.D.N. and D.N.I.S., including their continued relevance and their impact and effectiveness.N.D.N. and D.N.I.S. occupy an important strategic position in the disability rights movement and are in good enough shape to direct and lead social change in India.