Saturday 23 February 2019 | 03:58

The Convention should become a "living tool”, rather than remaining just an ordinary document

12.03.2018  |  Society   |  Yauheniya Burshtyn, EuroBelarus,  
The Convention should become a "living tool”, rather than remaining just an ordinary document Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

On March 3, members of the campaign "Agenda 50" from different Belarusian cities met in Minsk. The campaign is aimed at the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It has been two years since the beginning of the campaign "Agenda 50" implementation in Belarus, with the support of the European Union, designed to contribute to the introduction of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Belarusian regions. The document was signed by our country back in 2016, but legislative initiatives "from above" do not always quickly take root on the ground. Therefore, the campaign is an attempt to implement the 50 points of the Convention on the reverse principle, “from the bottom", and to resolve vital issues for each region, in the first place.

On March 3, the members of the campaign "Agenda 50" met in Minsk. There were representatives from almost all - except for Valožyn - the pilot cities (Babruysk, Stolin, Ščučyn and Stoŭbcy) where the mini projects are being implemented, and the work goes on writing local agendas. At the meeting, the activists got the possibility to become better acquainted and to exchange information, share experience they had received during the development of their projects. Also the Polish partners from Fundacja TUS Malgorzata Peratsyatkovič, Peter Todys and Lina Peterson, a representative of the Danish NGO "European House" came to the meeting.

Malgorzata Peratsyatkovič. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

Peter Todys. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

Lina Peterson. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

- We do not single out persons with disabilities; we argue that for everybody should be found a place in the society. The main direction of our activity is to create social enterprises for people with special needs. In the project "Agenda 50", I am the coordinator and the contact person in our collaboration with the Delegation of the European Union in Belarus, said Lina Peterson.

Director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Siarhei Drazdouski also greeted the people at the meeting:

- For us, the Convention is a "living tool” that should be used. Within two years, we have been trying to do it at the local level. The problem is that previously, government initiatives were designed and put down "from above". This time we would like to do it differently. Our current work is a kind of a feedback process so that we can articulate what needs to be done on the ground, aiming at the Convention implementation to become a reality, rather than remaining just an ordinary document, said Mr. Drazdouski.

Siarhei Drazdouski (left) and participant from Stolin Michael Skrabeyka. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

The main and the joint achievement emphasized by the representatives of all the cities, is creating teams for writing agendas and distribution of tasks within them. It turns out that everyone gets to meet together and discuss pressing issues easily and quickly, in most cases the cooperation goes well between the activists and government agencies. At the same time, the difficulties often arise with the authorities, but the problem consists not in the unwillingness of the latter to help, but in the fact that the realization of certain ideas is impossible due to the very nature of the Belarusian legislation. Another problem is the lack of interest towards the issue of the very people with disabilities.

Malgorzata Peratsyatkovič drew attention to the fact that the teams’ work without coaches is more difficult than the one with the coaches. That is why the participants received "home works" - specific plans which they need to perform to the date determined by them. Since the designing of local agendas is a completely new experience for all the participants, they will be helped by facilitators (you can also call them inspirers), Ellada Hukasava and Julia Stankevič.

Participants of the meeting. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

- I would suggest using the meeting to exchange contacts and to start talking to each other about the ongoing work and what needs to be done. When people act using the same methodology, the joint talk is very conducive to the work implementation, suggested Peter Todys.

Joint discussions and sharing experience was, perhaps, the main ultimate goal of the meeting. After all, in fact, all the regions have already made some progress on the projects. Let’s recall that in Babruysk, after the training in “Shkola pracauladakavannya” ("School of employment"), one local resident with the first disability group managed to get a job. Another four school members were successfully interviewed, but were forced to decline the job because the company was located outside the city. Another Babruysk-based project aimed at the employment of people with disabilities was noted by holding seminars, consultations on private businesses, advertising, marketing, and handicraft. And in the framework of another project in Babruysk, “Spytaj miane” ("Ask me") launched by wheelchair users, the information campaign is taking place. It is planned also to organize the "live library", as well as to hold a campaign for motorists "Give a person with a disability a free ride - and ask him/her a question".

Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

In Ščučyn, a project "Active Community" aimed at creating self-help groups and training advocating their interests, helped to discover that 2/3 of the project members’ problems can be solved by their community itself, without the attraction of public resources. There was a round table held in the town. Based on its results, the project members were able to identify many of the challenges and, more importantly, to find ways to solve them.

Members of a Stolin-based project "Equal to Equal" have already developed a working version of an accessibility guide for the town for people with disabilities; the town objects are being monitored.

In the meanwhile, activists from Valožyn, although being absent from the meeting, aroused desire of their colleagues to visit the town and to see the process of their project implementation. Their idea proved to be extremely relevant, being seemingly very simple, that is to inform the inhabitants of the surrounding villages of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Visiting consultations are taking place in village executive committees where concerned people are told about the content of the Convention. Many of them hear about the document for the first time. Also, psychological help is being provided during the consultations by the project participants who share success stories of people with disabilities, talk about the benefits provided for them by law in the district.

Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

Another important part of the meeting was the work in a "world café" format. Here, in informal setting, the three groups of participants answered questions by turn: how to implement the Convention at the local level? What are the benefits of interaction between public associations, government and businesses? What is independent living and inclusion in the community?

And here are the conclusions. In order to implement the Convention, all members of local communities need to talk about it wherever possible, to break down barriers and social patterns about disability (primarily in their own minds) and, more importantly, to communicate and to work all together. It is important to be able to advocate one’s own interests and, of course, one can not do without negotiating with officials, handling statistical information, monitoring and learning all the things associated. In the end, it is necessary to admit: the Convention is the law that must be executed.

Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

And here it will be appropriate to mention the benefits of cooperation between government authorities, businesses and public associations. While the word "profit" caused rejection of many participants at the beginning at the meeting, in the end, however, they all agreed on the fact that there was profit; primarily, financial. For businesses it is tax cuts and advertising, performance of the state order for employment; for the state it is an opportunity to attract extra-budgetary funds. Besides, it is the exchange of information between various parties, moral satisfaction from collaboration and the creation of one’s positive image.

Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

The participants have agreed on the definition of independent living. In their opinion, it consists in possibility to realize themselves, in universal barrier-free environment, opportunities for learning and development of their potential, employment opportunities, and availability of choice, active life in the society and generally comfortable psychological and physical environment.

Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

And that is how a certain ground for local agendas and guide to action has been formed. Honestly, if only campaigners could get together more often, the local agendas would not only have been designed, but their implementation would have already started.

Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

***

The material was prepared in the framework of the international project "Rights of People with Disabilities: agenda for Belarus (Agenda 50)".

“Agenda 50” campaign is implemented with the support of the European Union and in partnership with TUS Foundation (Poland) and “European House” (Denmark). Office for the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesInternational Consortium “EuroBelarus” and Centre for European Transformation participate in the implementation of the campaign in Belarus.

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