The moderator, Nancy Maguire started the panel discussion by highlighting the importance to acknowledge that the ‘disability’ group is not like one homogenous group and is subject to different perspectives and experiences on the basis of where they are from.
Ambrose Murangira, then shared his personal experience in Uganda. He highlighted the discriminatory practices from childhood to the community level; and faced these challenges by performing, cooperating with his friends and leading his cause. Teachers are also very important in influencing young people. Apart from disability organizations, it is important that all people take the responsibility of ensuring that the disabled community gets their rights. The post 2015 agenda in his opinion, would give this cause the right platform to be heard.
Andrea Mazzarino shared her research on children with disabilities in Russian and Japanese state orphanages. In the case of Russia, the children are abandoned by the sate. According to UNICEF at least, 305,000 children lived in Russian orphanages, which is 2-5% of Russia ‘s total child population. The children with disabilities are victims of violence, neglect and isolation in Russian orphanages. Although a vast majority of these children have one living parent, due to the doctors stating that the children will never be able to develop like normal children under immense pressure from the society, those parents give up their children. In the case of Japan, 25% of 39000 Japanese children live in state institutions; group homes for independent living and foster care have a disability. The lack of inclusion in the educational system has severed consequences in the overall development of these children. She recommended, that these children should be provided adequate support from communities, parents and foster parents, collectively and to create independent mechanism to ensure institutionalization is used as the only resort.
Finally Rashmi Chopra, shared her research and study on women and girls with disabilities. Women with disabilities are profoundly vulnerable to abuse and often their choices are not heard and abuses remain hidden. The social stigma and exclusion impacts their multiple rights such as health education and a family life. Chopra highlighted the stories of three women from Zambia and India, respectively. Mary and Charity from Zambia were both victims of HIV AIDS and rape. They were abused by their husbands and got limited schooling. Rekha from India suffered from an intellectual disability. Her mother, without any consent and knowledge from Rekha, sterilized her, to protect her from sexual violence. These cases represent the vulnerability of disabled women and girls to abuse and violence.
Meeting Title: Voices of Women, Children and Youth with Disabilities: from Uganda, Zambia, India, Japan and Russia
Speakers: Nancy Maguire, UNICEF Global Youth Council Member; Ambrose Murangira, Executive director, Uganda National Association of the Deaf; Andréa Mazzarino, ACLS Public Fellow, Europe & Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch; Rashmi Chopra, Fellow, Disability Rights Division, Human Rights Watch.
Date: 11 June 2014
Location: Conference room 5, United Nations Headquarters, New York.
Written by WIT Representative– Aslesha Kaur Dhillon