Inclusion, equality and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities
Bridging the Gap: Inclusive Policies and Services for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities (BtG), an initiative funded by the European Union, was launched on Thursday July 12 by the Austrian Development Agency with various United Nations representatives, civil society organizations and disability rights advocates present.
Bridging the Gap aims to contribute to the socio-economic inclusion, equality and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities in low and middle income countries through accountable institutions and implementing more inclusive policies.
Ethiopia is one of the participating countries in this project including Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Paraguay and Sudan. George Okutho, country director of the International Labor Migration, emphasized in his keynote speech that there are 1.5 billion persons with disability globally. “We must not and cannot afford to ignore or marginalize the contributions of 1.5 billion people. Upholding the rights of people with disabilities is a moral imperative. It is not an act of charity.” He also commended the current administration’s commitment to reform.
State Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Misganaw Admasu referred to the World Report on Disability that estimates 17.6 percent disability prevalence in Ethiopia, the majority of which reside in rural areas with limited access to basic services. “In our country, 95 percent of all persons with disabilities are estimated to live in poverty. Many depend on family support for their survival.”
The state minister recognized the gap in making MoLSA’s polices and services a reality and acknowledged that the partnership with the Austrian Development Agency will help bring the knowledge, appropriate programming and collaboration required to bring these programs to fruition.
Launched with a budget of seven million euros from the EU, BtG is to be implemented in select intervention areas in the Amhara and Somalia regional states. The program will focus on resilience building livelihood interventions and social protection in line with the national development agenda until 2021. Shitaye Astawes, National Program Manager of BtG stressed the importance of women with disabilities’ inclusion in national social and economic dialogue.
Moderator of the event lawyer and disability rights activist Yetnebersh Nigussie also emphasized the need for partnership and collaboration. “We must destroy walls and build bridges. We must say no to exclusion … I don’t want to be tolerated. I want to be embraced.” Disabled persons in Ethiopia face rampant discrimination beginning from the stereotypes and misconceptions in society to the structural inaccessibility of buildings and public structures, limiting their participation in social, economic and political issues nationwide.