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Disability perspective missing in ActionAid’s critique of Millennium Development Goals

D.N.I.S. News Network – A citizen’s report entitled “Whose Freedom? - Millennium Development Goals as if people matter!” released recently by ActionAid has failed to address the issue of disability, even while emphasising that the report is an insight into people’s perspective about the state of development, the fulfillment of their basic rights and the services and promises of governments in the context of the Millennium Declaration.

The M.D.G.s have been under scathing attack from the disability sector for failing to address the cross-cutting issue of disability, despite an estimated 600 million people worldwide having some or the other disability, and of this over 70 per cent live in a developing or transitional economy.

The report is very comprehensive in its scope and encapsulates feedback from some of the most marginalised groups from least developed regions of the world. However, it misses out on exploring the issue of disability in these sections, and in the process letting slip an important opportunity for collecting data on disability that this exercise could have yielded. Incidentally, disability is one of the priority areas of ActionAid activities.

According to a United Nations Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (U.N.E.S.C.O.) report, approximately 98 per cent of children with disabilities in developing and/or poor countries are out of school. Yet, no specific mention has been made of this overwhelming fact. Of the two per cent who are in school, an abysmally low number are girls with disabilities or children with mental retardation. Similarly, women with disabilities face dual discrimination of being women first and then of being women with disabilities.

On the absence of any mention of disability in the report, Kiran Shaheen, Communications Head of ActionAid India, said: “We are committed to the rights of disabled people at the same level as the rights of any other section. The M.D.G.s should have incorporated the dimension of disability as it is a cross-cutting issue, but as in the case of the issue of gender, which should have been addressed more comprehensively through a broader spectrum, the issue of disability was not addressed during the framing of M.D.G.s. So far as the above report is concerned, yes I do feel that a critique of the M.D.G.s should have looked into disability and also listed specifically in the charter of demands.”