Advocating The United Nations Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

In July 2013, in conjunction with Action On Armed Violence (AOAV) a programme of advocacy was conceived at CEDAC. The goal was to raise awareness for those living with disability – particularly women – and to pressure the government of Burundi to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or the CRPD. The implementation phases begun in November 2013 and has only just concluded as April 2014 nears its end. The activities experienced a 16 day crescendo between 25 November and 10 December, coinciding with the International Day of People with Disabilities. It was during this period that CEDAC and AOAV, supported by AusAID, held a period of activism and awareness including an event on 8 December to celebrate the lives of people with disabilities and those living with HIV/AIDS. 

The Programme itself was officially concluded in April with a round table discussion here in Bujumbura, Burundi with all parties happy with the outcome. The federal government has agreed to the need to ratify the CRPD, it has passed both houses of parliament and is simply awaiting the President’s signature. However, the project will continue into the future because there is still a need for community awareness and sensitisation to occur ensuring that people – and importantly women – living with disability enjoy the same rights and freedoms that are afforded to able bodied people.

The advocacy was only one important part of this programme and consisted of 60 people: female survivors; women with disabilities; and representatives from survivor or disability rights groups. These people represented both Bujumbura and Muramvya provinces across four communes in each province and thus were divided into eight groups. These groups were then trained and worked on four important elements within the programme: advocacy; developing leadership skills; the inherent rights outlined in both the CRPD and the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR); and Sexually and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) each group then working together to further the goal of equal rights for the disabled in Burundi.

The second phase, with funding from the government of Norway and AusAID, has been conducted parallel to the advocacy work creating a symbiotic relationship between the two. The psychosocial support work conducted in this phase helped with trauma alleviation suffered by women with disability. It has therefore, created a fundamental organ to help rebuild the self-esteem of those suffering from trauma and build social cohesion while providing a solid foundation for the advocacy programme.

The programme consists of 60 trained peer-to-peer workers who initially worked with the clients on an individual basis before groups can be formed. Once groups are formed they embark on an income generating project to gain some cohesion within the group and the groups then form a support network for the individuals involved. The psychosocial support network was designed to assist 600 victims of trauma.However, the programme has helped 1,320 in a little less than one year.   

Both programmes will continue into the future, be it through the continued work of trauma healing from psychosocial support or via the sensitisation projects to affirm equality within Burundian society. The psychosocial work is due to be expanded into the three new provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Bubanza, Cibitoke and Karusi while the advocacy will still be needed to ensure that Burundian government implement the CRPD into law and society live up to its responsibilities.        

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