International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2013

SLP Tanzania 2013

The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is "Break Barriers, Open Doors: For an Inclusive Society for All."  The goal is to raise awareness about the numerous barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from participating fully and effectively in their respective societies. The barriers that we aim to break may be physical, attitudinal, institutional, informational, or legal, among many others.

One strategy to break barriers and promote inclusion has been advancing disability issues in mainstream development agendas. In September 2013, the UN General Assembly convened a High Level Meeting on Disability and Development that highlighted the crosscutting nature of disability and the importance of including disability in all sectors of development programming.

As the dialogue on disability in development continues to expand, it is important to highlight effective examples of projects that include disability components. To this end, I applaud USAID’s Leadership, Management & Governance Project for incorporating workshops on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the Senior Leadership Program (SLP) that is being implemented by MSH and the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute. The SLP is a team-based leadership development program that consists of three sessions and aims to equip senior decision makers with the skills to address key health system problems with evidence-based strategies, effective management, and accountable governance.

The four country teams that are participating in the SLP are from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Sudan. Notably, all four countries have ratified the CRPD and are thus legally bound to its provisions. Prior to the first session, USAID requested that the CRPD be incorporated into the session’s agenda. During the first session of the SLP in August, there was a two hour lecture on Human Rights and the CRPD. Following the first session, the SLP participants requested additional information on the CRPD and we provided a full day of participatory CRPD training during the second session that took place last week.

The full day training helped advance the participants understanding of the CRPD and how it relates to their leadership work. The participants from all four countries started analyzing their problem statements and implementation plans using the CRPD framework. For example, the Zambia country team is working to improve data collection efforts for persons with disabilities and is using CRPD Article 31, Statistics and data collection, to help articulate their strategy.

As we celebrate this year’s international day of persons with disabilities, we must reflect on our strategies to “break barriers and open doors” and ensure that development programs in all sectors are working to promote inclusive societies. The CRPD trainings at the SLP provide one example of how raising awareness on disability issues for people in leadership and management positions can help to break down barriers and open doors. In addition to including disability in all development programs, we need to highlight how disability is included in various types of programs so that we can learn from each other and can work to advance inclusive societies for all.

To learn more about LMG’s work empowering disability leaders and read interviews with disability advocates for International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2013, click here.

Allison deFranco is a Research Associate with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability. She has been working with LMG on the Senior Leadership Program in Tanzania, providing a training on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) during the first two sessions.

I welcome this post as it emphasizes the importance of disability inclusion in all development interventions. Unless and until international development programs across all sectors effectively accommodate persons with disabilities, poverty reduction and human rights objectives will not be realized. Disability inclusion advances development for all, not only the one billion persons with disabilities worldwide.

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