From the 25th to the 29th of this week, a significant event was taking place, at the Tooa Salamasina Hall at Sogi, the special training on the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This training was conducted by experienced resource people from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, following a request from the Government focal point for Disability, the Ministry of women Community and Social Development for technical assistance.
While the language and approach to the training was nothing new to some participants who have been involved in the disability rights recognition movement for many years, it was truly an eye-opener for many.
The United Nations convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities was developed in response to an overlooked development challenge, as according to the World Health Organisation report on disability, 15% of the world population has some sort of disability.
From that number, 80% do live in developing countries including Samoa.
The convention sets out the legal obligations of states to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, as they continuously being denied their human rights and are being marginalized in society.
Without delving into the complexities of the models, suffice to say the convention marks a shift from previous models of disability; the medical model, where disability must be fixed, and the charity model, where people with disabilities are charity cases that need tender loving care.
This human rights approach, considers a disabling environment as the cause of disability and that appropriate services, legislations and policies must be put in place in order for people with disabilities to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities.
Also to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
The training emphasized the need to change our mind sets and attitudes towards disability, as human rights issues.
That the convention, if it is ratified will allow persons with disabilities to enjoy their human rights and inherent dignities through the help of the Government in promoting and implementing the convention.
It also encourages the need for disabled people’s organisations, NGOS private sector and Government to work together and speak the same language and walk the same talk in promoting disability using a human rights approach.
Most importantly that people with disabilities has and will continue to play a central role in any policy, legislation or change in relation to disability.
People with disabilities are the only people that have experienced disability, and can speak on their behalf.
WE have a very strong disability community in Samoa with the work of Disabled People’s Organisation, Nuanua o le Alofa, and service providers, Senese Inclusive support Service, Loto Taumafai, PREB and Fiamalamalama.
Rest assure that we all are committed to the movement and we are hoping for Government support in recognizing our rights and contribution to society.
For as the Slogan goes, “nothing about us without us.”We acknowledge the Government focal point for Disability, Ministry of Women Community and Social development in coordinating and hosting the training.
WE also salute the disability community for your participation in voicing our issues.
Last but not the least, our experienced trainers, from the Pacific Disability Forum, who helped us to be more empowered than ever before.
God bless you all and remember, together we can move forward into the ratification of this very important convention that will improve many lives.
Seneese Inclusive Support Service Promotion and awareness Officer & Nuanua o le alofa Secretary and disability advocate