Disability Alliance on SDGs Bangladesh and NGO Affairs Bureau of Bangladesh have jointly organised the dissemination event of the Baseline Report ‘Sustainable Development Goals and Disability” on October 25, 2019 with great success. The key focal person of the government of Bangladesh on SDGs, Md. Abul Kamal Azad, Principal Coordinator (SDGs), Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh attended the baseline launching event as the chief guest. And the Director General of NGO Affairs Bureau of Bangladesh, K M Abdus Salam joined the event as the special guest. The event was chaired by Monsur Ahmed Chowdhury, Founder Trustee of Impact Foundation, Bangladesh and Former Member, UN Committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Bangladesh Disability Alliance on SDGs Bangladesh is a platform of 21 national and international non-government organizations and organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) working for the rights and development of the persons with disabilities in Bangladesh. Sightsavers Bangladesh Country Office is playing the role of the secretariat of this Alliance.
The objective of the baseline launching event was to share the findings of the baseline report with all the relevant stakeholders including the government of Bangladesh. It is worth mentioning here that a total of 108 persons participated in the event representing Government. INGOs, NGOs, DPOs, CSOs, and media. The immediate result of the event is that the relevant officials of the government have been well sensitized about disability in light of SDGs. And, in this connection, the Principal Coordinator (SDGs) of the Prime Minister’s Office has made a commitment to identify the short-term, mid-term and long-term activities to be implemented by the government and share them with the relevant ministries, departments and government offices. Furthermore, the Director General of NGO Affairs Bureau has also committed that he would convene a meeting with the Alliance members to discuss priorities and next steps in consultation with the INGOs, NGOs and DPOs on disability inclusive development.
Dr. Nafeesur Rahman, the lead researcher of the baseline report, made a power-point presentation on the baseline report. The baseline report first tried looking into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a disability lens and identified that 13 goals of SDGs are closely connected with disability, however information was not available concerning Goal 12, 14 and 15 during the study. Moreover, the Report ‘Sustainable Development Goals and Disability’ makes a set of recommendations to find effective ways to move forward with the SDGs ensuring that issues and concerns of persons with disabilities are meaningfully addressed. The report emphasized on mapping the disability specific indicators and endorsement by the government, obtaining thorough disability disaggregated data, ensuring inclusion practises, amendment of relevant laws and policies, necessary development budget allocation for the persons with disabilities and advocacy with all.
Khondoker Ariful Islam, Convener of Disability Alliance on SDGs Bangladesh and Country Director of Sightsavers, said in his welcome remarks, “Though the SDGs have categorically addressed inclusion of all vulnerable groups of people, with a specific emphasis on persons with disabilities, it is expected that all development programmes and initiatives undertaken by the government and other mainstream development actors alike truly address inclusive practises”. Moreover, he thanked the DG of NGO Affairs Bureau for extending support in preparing the baseline report through providing valuable feedback on the final draft. The Convener urged all the member organisations to continue working together to explore the fullest potential mitigating the remaining challenges.
The special guest of the event, K M Abdus Salam, DG, NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), said that 14 goals of SDGs are directly or indirectly related with disability. Achieving the targets of the SDGs by 2030 will pave the way for Bangladesh to become a developed country by 2041, he added. And the DG of NGOAB also commented that NGO AB would welcome disability related funds and NGOs and INGOs must make detailed planning of disability inclusive programmes for the coming few years.
The chief guest of the launching event Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Principal Coordinator (SDGs) at Prime Minister’s Office, first welcomed the initiative of preparing the baseline report ‘Sustainable Development Goals and Disability’. He said, “The government of Bangladesh is highly committed to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals and the policy of the government is to Leave No One Behind. Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is highly sensitive to the rights of the persons with disabilities and under her leadership we are giving a priority to disability inclusion in all spheres of the society in line with SDGs.” The chief guest of the event also stressed on inter-ministerial coordination on the disability issue and exploring the short-term, mid-term and long-term activities which the ministries should implement. Some of the key points of the speech given by the chief guest are as follows:
- Inter-ministerial coordination of the ministries for the disability section is very important;
- Short-term, mid-term and long-term activities must be explored, and the relevant ministries and the government agencies should implement them;
- Disability should be mainstreamed through ensuring community level development;
- Accessibility should be incorporated in the building code and implemented accordingly;
- The government has already started providing talking books to the students visually impaired, however, talking books to all the disabled students will be given in the next year;
- Disability should be considered in the SDG tracker to record the real change taking place.
Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Principal Coordinator (SDGs) at Prime Minister’s Office, also showed a video documentary to the participants about the development journey of Bangladesh in various SDG indicators. And he promised to ensure more SDGs-related activities by the government, especially in the disability field. The chief guest also remarked that positive changes are taking place as social neglect to the persons with disabilities no longer exists. He expressed hope that more positive changes will take place in the coming years.
Special guest of the event K M Abdus Salam, DG, NGOAB, said that the government has already prepared the Action Plan and 14 goals out of 17 SDGs are directly or indirectly connected. However, he gave priority on implementation. The special guest said, “To make sure no one is left behind, we need to have coordination involving more organisations”. He also mentioned that the government has plans for creating a disability-friendly environment. Some areas the DG of NGOAB emphasis on are as follows:
- Strengthening the Disability Alliance on SDGs Bangladesh;
- The talent of the persons with disabilities must be harnessed so that they can play a role in the job market
- Funds for the disability and climate change sectors likely to increase in the future, so more planned activities need to be initiated; and
- The Baseline Report should be shared with all the relevant ministries and government agencies.
Chair of the programme, Monsur Ahmed Chowdhury concluded the event with the remarks that those who are working with persons with disabilities, for their inclusion and development should not get demotivated counting what they are receiving from project funds. And persons with disabilities should play their active role in developing themselves, not looking for the sympathy from others.
THE OTHER KEY DISUCSSION POINTS WITH RECOMMENDATIONS
Khandaker Jahurul Alam, Executive Director, Centre for Services and Information on Disability (CSID)
- As the moderator, he said that he was very happy as most of the leaders of this sector made time to attend the event.
- He also appreciated the journey that the alliance members travelled together to have its present shape.
- He particularly thanked Sightsavers BCO for hosting the secretariat of the alliance and for playing the leadership role when needed.
Dr Nafeesur Rahman, Disability Expert and Keynote Speaker
- He started saying that the main essence of SDGs is that ‘Leaving No One Behind’ from development activities and claimed that Bangladesh, historically, provided necessary focus on objectives and targets of MDGs and SDGs.
- He argued that planning programmes based on ground-level information is not happening in the country as there is a serious lack of disability-disaggregated data.
- He believed that baseline on this issue was a much-expected task since long.
- He also expected that an effective alliance like this might take the lead to facilitate development as to disability mainstreaming.
- Before going further detail into the keynote presentation, he said that this report is likely to meet some of the knowledge gap and will help both the government and nongovernment organisations to plan and act better.
A.H.M Noman Khan, Executive Director, Centre for Disability in Development (CDD)
- There is a tendency that we focus more on quantitative data than qualitative background for which we are failing to draw actual scenario of the causes and consequences of disability.
- Since we have 12 types of disability, development planning should address diverse needs of every person.
- Twenty years back, we were not sure what services to provide for persons with disabilities and we did not have necessary/trained professionals to deliver those. Now, we know what to do in which way and who can support for the betterment of the persons with disabilities.
- The government should involve the allied health professionals in a nationwide regular system.
Ashrafun Nahar Misti, Executive. Director, Women with Disabilities Development Foundation (WDDF)
- We need to create employment opportunities for persons with disabilities living in the villages.
- Recently government erected blockers on the footpaths to stop bikers from using the space but it is becoming inaccessible for persons with disabilities which demands attention of the responsible authorities.
- Allowance is not enough and everybody in fact does not need it. What many of us (persons with disabilities) need is merit and skill-based employment opportunities and this is more pragmatic.
Jowaherul Islam Mamun, President, SWID Bangladesh
- Education for children with disabilities (CSN) in villages is difficult because of the lack of trained teachers and other relevant professionals.
- There is a need to sensitize officials of different ministries at the local level so that they understand what is expected to do for inclusive education.
Nazma Ara Begum Poppy, Project Officer at Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion
- We do not have necessary monitoring mechanism to check why persons with disabilities are not getting services even though there is a policy in place.
Morjina Ahmed, Executive Director, Disabled Welfare Society (DWS)
- This report should be translated into Bengali to reach more people for developing their understanding.
- Having braille copies would also be great.
Mohammad Billal Hossain, President, Spondon Pratibondhi Unnayan Songstha
- Disability organisations should lobby and campaign for re-establishment of quota for persons with disabilities in government jobs.
- They also should put efforts to create market-chain through which persons with disabilities can directly sell their own agricultural/hand-made products without giving share to the middlemen.
Mohammad Jahangir Alam, General Secretary, Visually Impaired People’s Society (VIPS)
- Different disability organisations and even different departments of the same ministry are taking varied means for the development of persons with disabilities which should be aligned to have more impact and reduce duplication of services for the same beneficiaries.
- Though we witnessed changes in attitudes of people at large towards persons with disabilities, we found there are still some government officials who have lack of knowledge and understanding of the issue and therefore are unable to deal with the issue politely.
Md. Balayet Hossain, Manager- Advocacy and Networking, HelpAge International
- NGO Bureau should ask the organisations to design programmes for the elderly persons with disabilities, and so far no such initiative in the country is seen except the initiative adopted by HelpAge.
Hasiba Hasan Joya, Treasurer, Society for Deaf and Sign Language Users (SDSL)
More sign language users should be involved in the electronic media and having them in court will also help persons with speech and hearing impairment to fulfil their rights to information and justice.
KEY THEMATIC AREAS IDENTIFIED
Eight thematic areas have been identified for the disability related activities of the Alliance. The thematic areas the Alliance will work on are as follows:
- Skills and Employment Creation
- Inclusive Health and Rehabilitation
- Rights and Protection
- Women with Disabilities
- Children with Disabilities
- Inclusive Education; and
- Disaster and Climate Change