There are one billion disabled people in the world, and most of them live in poorer countries. This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: people living in poverty are more likely to become disabled, and disabled people are more likely to have their opportunities and freedoms limited and so live in poverty.
For this reason, the Summit has an ambitious agenda aimed at addressing the inter-sectional barriers to people with disabilities accessing their rights. The Charter’s commitments span issues like supporting people with disabilities to become leaders, tackling stigma, economic empowerment and most importantly ensuring that persons with disabilities are “front and centre of change.”
For development and humanitarian organisations, this isn’t about running one special programme for disabled people. It is about including and thinking about disabled people in the most important and biggest things we do.
To ensure the Commitments translate into real change on the ground, then political leadership and accountability are of critical importance. This week’s summit is co-hosted by the Department for International Development and the Kenyan Government – and the latter recently hosted a satellite summit to build on commitments which they will present this week. The momentum generated by the Summit has also connected to efforts by other governments in the global south, including Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
CARE International has already been working with Kenyan government officials on social protection linked to our work on Village Savings & Loans Associations. In Kenya, the government is exploring how to mobilise people with disabilities into savings groups with the purpose of developing a savings culture, to access formal banking services and to receive other government support including small scale enterprise development. It is fantastic to see that these officials will be present at the Summit.
Reflecting on the Summit’s commitment to economically empower people with disabilities, we believe that governments and donors should promote more and better integration of savings groups into national social safety net programmes which target the vulnerable, so that people with disabilities have a fair opportunity to profit economically and benefit from group solidarity in the same way that Olive did, and 20 million other savings group members are across 75 countries.
At the agency I work for, CARE International, we are focusing our commitments at the Summit on the specific rights and needs of people with disabilities in terms of gender equality and life-saving humanitarian action. Forthcoming research by CARE in Malawi and Vanuatu shows how local disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are frequently marginalised from the wider humanitarian response, and – conversely – how women living with disability face a double discrimination; marginalised due to gender norms and their disability.
So at the Summit, we pledge to work with DPOs to explore how to better factor disability into the implementation of ‘Rapid Gender Analysis’ – a new toolkit that CARE has designed and is now integrated into the new UN global guidelines on Gender in Humanitarian Action.
To open up the space for local DPOs in the UN-NGO humanitarian coordination, CARE will work with others to facilitate the participation of DPOs in the Global Protection Cluster. Specifically, we will look to involve DPOs in a new Task Team focused on promoting meaningful engagement of local civil society organisations within the Gender Based Violence Area of Responsibility under the Global Protection Cluster.
To conclude, I don’t think I can put it any better than a female representative of a local disabled people’s organisations speaking to CARE in Vanuatu about the Cyclone Pam response:
“Disability is an issue that everyone should be thinking about, it should not only fall on the disability activists just in the same way that gender is everyone’s responsibility”.
Let’s all remember that this is our collective responsibility and in equal measure we can all do something about it.