Yesterday I attended the annual Civil Society Global Forum 2015 (CSGF) that took place at the UN headquarters in New York. This forum is a space where Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and other relevant stakeholders meet annually to discuss gaps, opportunities and challenges faced by persons with disabilities at a global level.
During the day-long forum particular emphasis was given to forging partnerships, most-at-risk groups such as women and girls with disabilities especially during humanitarian disasters, and youth with disabilities.
CBM presents on the Sendai Framework
Valerie Scherrer, Director of CBM’s Emergency Response Unit, spoke about successful multilateral partnerships that led to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). She highlighted 3 main elements of the framework-
- Persons with disability are key stakeholders in development and humanitarian processes
- Recognition of the importance of including universal design and accessibility in DRR and
- Key contribution of persons with disabilities in all sectors of life in different countries
Emphasizing the positive nature of the Sendai framework especially for disaster and crisis, Valerie also said that such initiatives must become a model to inform policy and framework development.
Don’t let our voices drown!
One of my favorite speakers so far is Rachel Kachaje. The former Minister of Disability and Elderly Affairs in Malawi, she is now a representative of Disabled Women in Africa.
Rachel’s impassioned speech focussed on women and girls with disabilities in Africa. She said, “In Africa, our voices are defined by the number of children we produce. As a disabled woman, you are not worthy of marriage. Exploitation, violence and abuse against women and girls with disabilities are on the rise, but no one is listening to our voices. We are not taken seriously. This is why education is a priority. When a girl child is educated, she is empowered; she can speak up and be heard. If children with disabilities remain uneducated, they become disempowered, trapped within poverty and disability and exposed to abuse and violence. When woman is educated, she can take leadership positions.“
Voice of the youth
It was heartening to see youth with disabilities from Palestine, India, Guyana, Kyrgystan and Panama share their personal experiences and hopes for the future. Main issues highlighted by them were unemployment, lack of meaningful education opportunities and financial assistance. I found Shatha Abu Srour’s personal trajectory quite moving. She is a young blind woman from Palestine and spoke about the difficult in accessing resources in the current political, economic and social scenario in the Arab world right now. She said it is almost impossible to talk about disability in the current context, when citizens are missing the basic needs as human beings and are unable to live in dignity and freedom. In such a situation disability is often completely forgotten.
The forum was a great space to discuss and promote dialogue between various stakeholders of the disability movement. It also laid the ground for the 8th session of the Conference of State Parties to the CRPD which began today (9 June 2015). More on that in the next post!