A social project "Equal to Equal" has been launched in Stolin district under the campaign "Agenda 50".
Belarus signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which provides a turn in policy of disability being conducted now, to a policy based on human rights. After the signing of the Convention, it has been ratified, its provisions have been reflected in Belarusian laws, in social policy programs, while the very process lead by the government should be filled from the "bottom", as well, - by the activity of individuals, communities, social organizations, cities. Exactly this kind of filling the campaign "Agenda 50" contributes to, which is implemented in Belarus with the support of the European Union.
- It must be the work of the whole society. The very essence of the agendas is to stimulate activity of people in cities through the creation of links between various initiative groups, without waiting for the state to come one day and do something, commented to the “EuroBelarus” information service director of the Center for European TransformationAndrei Yahorau.
But this activity should be rationally planned. Local agendas are presented just by these local plans which apply not to the whole country, or even to a specific region, but to some cities. To date, a study has been held regarding willingness of Belarusian cities to implement the Convention. There are initiative groups on the ground consisting of friends organizations of people with disabilities and certain government agencies (territorial social services centres in some cities), as well as from other interested social organizations and ordinary citizens.
- We drew the experience of our colleagues from Poland, prepared a methodology of work on the agendas in local conditions. Unlike our neighbors, who have everything had fairly centralized, and local authorities have been bound to develop plans in accordance with Polish legislation, our local authorities have neither the need nor the obligation to do so. In our situation, we often do not have “from the top" initiative; we rather have planning "from the bottom", but we include local authorities into it, where possible, says Andrei Yahorau.
The first and the most serious challenge faced by any initiative group is the absence of certain legitimacy to do some work. Local authorities feel themselves masters of their location, so decisions are sometimes taken in an extra-centralised way; we constantly need to go "at the top" to get permissions. Instead of the cooperation for improving the situation on the ground we have such an unhealthy confrontation: local authorities and public initiatives exist separately, without any contact. This greatly complicates the work, as in case of no legitimacy and right to do something, initiatives become unstable. Therefore, this work requires a great level of dedication, sacrifice and obstinacy.
However, sometimes there appears a desire for cooperation between community initiatives and public authorities, and towns of Staubcy, Stolin are more or less favorable in this respect.
- But sometimes people themselves have little knowledge of the situation in their city and do not have relevant competencies to implement such initiatives. You must have a lot of activity, creativity, openness, speed of action, while small towns live as though outside the boundaries of time, it seems like nothing ever changes there, stresses the interlocutor.
Plans for the implementation of the agendas for different cities and towns are different. Depending on the public activity, social businesses development, relations with local authorities, presence of active churches, educational institutions, which can contribute somehow to the project activity, there appears a unique combination of reasons to start the planning. After all, we can only rely on available resources that can be involved in this issue.
- A lot depends on people on the ground in implementing the agenda, on what they can and are willing to do. Barrier-free environment changes much more positively in those settlements (regardless of whether they are large or small), where there are big initiative groups of people with disabilities. But I see two challenges that may arise. The first one is people’s indifferent attitude to work, say, we will do something, and then it will develop by itself. It will not develop by itself. The second challenge is that people may perceive the work on the agendas as a small set of actions, without the understanding that this plan can change something in a city or a town. We should try to make sure that in the end we have got a team of people from different sectors related to each other and with key stakeholders in the city - business, government, churches. We are always ready to help and to be included in activities that are held on the ground, with all the resources that we have. Therefore, there is only one little thing left, namely, people on the ground.
Meanwhile, implementation of the first project in the framework of the campaign "Agenda 50" has begun in Stolin district, entitled "Equal to Equal." It consists in creating the conditions for independent living of young people with disabilities in Stolin district and provides for dissemination of experience learned to other regions. The project will be implemented in the course of the year. During this period, the participants will monitor all public and administrative buildings, catering facilities in Stolin for the presence of a barrier-free environment. All data will be processed. This will let releasing a guide to Stolin accessibility for people with disabilities, with indication of each object.
The social project "Equal to Equal" is being realized by the Centre of support for young people with disabilities, Belarus Red Cross Society, Belarusian Association of Assistance to Disabled Children and Young People, district organization "BelTIZ" (Belarusian Association of Visually Impaired People), Regional Centre of Correction and Development Training and Rehabilitation, Executive Committee and the initiative group of parents of disabled children.