People with disabilities in Espindola, Ecuador, with support from CBM and its local CBID partner, are creating change and improving life for people with and without disabilities.
Espíndola, Ecuador, is an agricultural community with 3,700 inhabitants in eight rural communities and a small urban centre. In 2010 it had a poverty rate of 97%. People with disabilities were discriminated against, denied full participation in community life, had little access to services and a limited voice.
Working through the local political system and using the national legal system, people with disabilities in Espíndola have improved their living conditions, their participation in community life and exercised their voice in claiming their rights. The local community gained experience in engaging with local government to implement national law and now benefits from the perspectives, experiences, and skills of people with disabilities.
Defending the rights of people with disabilities
Ecuadorian law requires municipalities to allocate a portion of their budget to vulnerable populations. In 2016 the municipality of Espíndola asked CBM partner “Discapacidad y Desarrollo” to undertake an investigation about people with disabilities with an aim to inform its budget process. The investigation undertaken with people with disabilities and with the local organisation of persons with disabilities (OPD) “Venciendo Barreras” uncovered many problems experienced by people with disabilities associated with discrimination and stigma, poverty, limited access to services, and low levels of empowerment. Building on suggestions proposed by people with disabilities themselves, Venciendo Barreras, with CBM and partner support, decided to push for a municipal law to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
In the past, local laws had always been proposed by councillors, the mayor or by the national government. In this community, the key people engaged were people with disabilities themselves and their families. Also involved were the councillors, the mayor, and municipal representatives of service units, particularly health, education, justice, and transport.
The aim of the project was to model community participation of and with persons with disabilities in the elaboration of local laws and policies protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The law was developed, analysed, and approved together. When the law was finalised, the local OPD defended it at the town council meeting and advocated its endorsement. The law includes provisions that protect the rights of persons with disabilities to a life in dignity and without discrimination, accessibility, access to services, and equal opportunities. Using funds of the municipality, the OPD socialised the law with community stakeholders.
One year later, meetings took place to evaluate progress and after two years, representatives of the OPD began traveling to neighbouring communities to promote replication. The evaluation showed persons with disabilities felt themselves less discriminated, had better access to health care, education, and transport, that more architectural accessibility existed and that the OPD was significantly empowered. The law, for example, requires the municipality to support teacher training for inclusive education and undertake measures to make schools physically accessible. It requires that all public transportation vehicles include at least one designated seat for people with disabilities. It also stipulates that local government will provide seed funds to create micro-enterprises for people and further establishes that people with disabilities have priority in the assignment of stalls at the city market.
In the first stages of the project, some people had to overcome a deeply embedded feeling that the municipality would not listen to them and they would fail. However, working together and supporting each other, the project demonstrates it is possible to co-write, gain approval of and implement a local law. The people through their work showed that civil society can affect great change and that by working with formally established community structures change can be sustainable.
Global Perspectives 2020
The ‘Global Perspectives 2020’ conference, co-sponsored by CBM, has just come to an end. This year the theme was ‘A Passion for Inclusion’.
CBM conducted a session on policy influencing at local level, where we explored how representative organisations of persons with disabilities can effectively influence policy making at the local level to build inclusive communities. Two practical and inspiring examples of policy influencing at the local level in Pakistan and Cameroon were also illustrated.Know more about our participation.