Support Rather Than Compassion
23 June, 2011
Support Rather Than Compassion

‘…Disability exists in the environment, in visions, not in the particular individuals…’

The third exhibition-forum for protecting the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) was held on June 14. 48 organizations took part in the event including government as well as non-government and international ones. Over 500 viewers visited the exhibition. The Coalition for Independent Living and the international organization Save the Children with technical and financial support of USAID held the annual ceremony with the aim of promoting integration and protecting the rights of disabled persons.

The exhibition-forum was divided into three parts: The exhibition of the projects and products of the participant organizations for disabled persons; Discussion about the main issues concerning PWD like education availability, professional activities, employment, trainings; Award ceremony with special prices for the best documentary made on the issue of disabled persons as well as the best article, the best video-commercial and etc.

“The more positive and intense information is delivered to the society, the better for raising awareness which directly influences the welfare of PWD. There are three kinds of problems to be solved: unavailability of physical environment for disabled people in the country; The Legislation and improving the law enforcement mechanisms; Fighting against the public stigma and stereotypes. Disability exists in the environment, in visions, not in the particular individuals. The environment should fit the person, not vice versa”, claims Rati Ionatamishvili, a disabled person himself, the head of the Coalition for Independent Living, which now already unites 25 organizations.

A variety of exhibits were presented by dozens of organizations including jewelry made of different materials, wooden toys for disabled children and many kinds of handmade souvenirs mostly created by PWD.

Salome Gabuchava is a disabled individual. Nevertheless she is a student studying at Tbilisi Theological Academy and at the same time along with many other PWD is a member of the “Anika” association: “I have been in this association for more than a year and have already made several golden and enamel jewelries that are now exhibited. We are involved in numerous projects that take place in Georgia as well as the international festivals abroad, where we represent our country”.

The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia is also strongly supporting the issue. The Deputy Minister Irine Kurdadze spoke to Georgian Journal: “It is an important day today but it is as much important to remember the needs of PWD every single day. The Ministry of Education and Science was one of the first to develop specific strategies and the action plan in this field. It is crucial to give the opportunity to disabled children to study not only in specialized schools, but in average public schools as well. For this purpose individual action plans are being adopted; We are also providing the teachers with special training courses for the matter. Adaptation and integration otherwise will be impossible”.

One of the initiators of the evening, a non-governmental organization “Save the Children” in Georgia takes the responsibility of providing humanitarian aid, social and health care for children. Besides, it participates in adopting political documents and is monitoring the State care for children.

“Currently we are implementing several projects such as: preparation of multidisciplinary teams for home care services. They will be visiting disabled children and assessing their condition, planning necessary future activities for them - education or employment. Everything that we see today, including this event is held by PWD themselves and this is very important, since they are maintaining the active lifestyle!”, Tinatin Kavtaradze, from “Save the Children” Georgian office, Supporting Equal Opportunities for PWD System Reform Project Coordinator, told us.

The main goal for the “Association of Disabled Women and Mothers of Disabled Children” – DEA is to prevent the division of the society into the disabled and non-disabled, to support the pursuit of productive life by PWD.

“One of the crucial projects for us is protecting the rights of disabled individuals through advocating reforms in state policy and monitoring the State action plan in three fields: Setting the status; Education; Employment. Along with the aforementioned we are aiming at creating a civil society. This is the hardest work since changing of people’s mentality is a time-consuming and complicated process. What we need is support rather than compassion”, one of the founders and the executive director of the Association DEA Madonna Kharebava told Georgian Journal. She is a disabled individual herself.

Georgia signed the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009. It includes such issues as Equality and Non-discrimination, Access to Justice, Work, Health, etc. Nevertheless, the document has not yet been presented to the parliament of Georgia for ratification. That is the reason why the initiative group sent a letter to the president in order to accelerate the process of ratification.

“According to the law, this document can be presented to the parliament only by the president. The convention is significant since the State has to take the obligations of creating a special body for monitoring the rights of PWD, also to permanently send the reports to the PWD committees and etc. We assume that the government is hesitating with ratification because a number of violations may be identified after”, a member Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) and of the current initiative group Vakhushti Menabde stated.

The head of the department of social services and culture of Tbilisi City Hall exclusively told Georgian Journal: “At this point it is almost impossible to comply with all the paragraphs of the Convention. As it is well-known, an international document can not be ratified until it is changed to fit the National Legislation. Quite much has already been done in this direction. Georgia has a policy considering gradual implementation of the aforementioned paragraphs. Today we all are assessing the achievements, but of course Tbilisi City Hall along with the Ministries of Education and Science; Justice as well as Labor, Health and Social Affairs are collaborating on further improving of the life quality for the People with Disabilities”.a

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