Saturday 20 April 2019 | 03:38

Local agenda in Valożyn: mission accomplished

05.03.2019  |  Society   |  Yauheniya Burshtyn, EuroBelarus,  
Local agenda in Valożyn: mission accomplished Photo of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

"Specificity is different, but the priority is general." In Valożyn, a local strategy for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed.

Although the document is not an official regulatory act, both local authorities and public social associations as well as people with disabilities took part in its development. The local agenda is a special action plan outlining measures to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities in the region for the years 2019-2020. Valożyn became the fourth city in Belarus (after Stoubcy, Stolin and Ščučyn) where a similar document was created and signed. The work on it was carried out within the framework of the “Agenda 50” campaign aiming to implement 50 articles of the UN Convention at the local level, taking into account local peculiarities. Indeed, contrary to stereotypes, the specifics of disabilities’ challenges are different in different parts of our small country. Just the priority topic of the general problem is currently common for all regions - it is addressing issues of the barrier-free environment.

Photo of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Besides accessibility, the Valożyn agenda also reflects other issues related to disability. Among them are discrimination against children with disabilities at school, problems with employers, lack of awareness of people with disabilities on their rights and the lack of rehabilitation facilities’ maintenance. To solve these problems, local activists will hold information campaigns, inclusive events, create accessible environment, organize trainings for personal growth and much more.

The signing of the document in Valożyn took a year and a half. In addition to achieving the main goal - creating a local agenda, during this time the local campaigners implemented a mini-project to inform the public about the problems and rights of people with disabilities, learned how to discuss important issues in a “horizontal” format (rather than to implement decisions “lowered from above” by inertia. They have also gained valuable experience of working in a team of interested people.

- The working group gathered, we sat down together and literally spelt out the problems in the field of disability in Valożyn district. Thanks to the Polish colleagues from the TUS Foundation, we managed to formulate the goals and objectives correctly and to discuss the problems. We did not invent anything new, nothing that would require some incredible costs, this is how the process was described by one of the authors of the agenda, psychologist of the Valożyn Territorial Center of Social Service, Elena Zhdanyuk.

In the center - Elena Zhdanyuk. Photo of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

According to her, thanks to the work on the agenda it turned out that the solution of many issues that are acute for people with disabilities does not require any special events and funding, a simple dialogue, but real, taking into account the views of all parties.

One of the main principles of working on the local agenda was the inclusion of the local community, and first of all the main stakeholders - people with disabilities.

“This is a new approach for our country,” said Siarhei Drazdouski, Director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

- Usually, all documents are written in the offices of ministries, and then communicated to people. Here, the approach is reverse, a European one: first, all sentences are designed on local level, and then established in high offices. This gives the most realistic picture for the problem solving.

Siarhei Drazdouski (left) and Deputy Chairman of the Valożyn District Executive Committee Igor Shakun. Photo of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Siarhei Drazdouski stressed that such a method makes it possible to develop an action plan based on local needs and resources most effectively. In general, one of the main criteria when writing a local agenda has been the feasibility. After all, real changes need real goals, rather than even a beautifully presented, but impracticable concept.

Another important point: the local agenda is not a closed document. It can and should be revised and modified based on the situation. As the Deputy Director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Mikhail Matskevich noted, the document is written in simple language so that everyone interested could read and understand it.

Failure to meet the local agenda does not provide for any penalties and sanctions. But the people who signed it take on a symbolic duty to implement this plan. For its part, the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities promised campaigners the support in meeting the agenda.

However, the Valożyn residents themselves are determined to implement their plans.

- I do not agree that the signing of the agenda does not commit to anything. This strategy is our two-year action plan, and I believe that we must implement it, because these are the needs of all our people”, says Larysa Ščarbačevič, chairman of the Valożyn branch of Belarusian association of assistance to children and young people with disabilities (BelAPDIiMI).

Larysa Ščarbačevič (left). Photo of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The local action plan in Valożyn was signed by the representatives of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Valożyn Territorial Center of Social Service, a regional branch of the Belarusian Association of Visually Impaired Persons, the BelAPDIMI offices, the district executive committee, the regional organization of trade union branches, the Valożyn housing and communal department, local Administration for labour, employment and social protection.

***

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

The campaign "Agenda 50" is being implemented with the support of the European Union in partnership with the Fundacja TUS (Poland)and the PA "European House" (Denmark)Office for the Rights of People with DisabilitiesInternational Consortium "EuroBelarus" and Center for European Transformation participate in the campaign implementation in Belarus.

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