Monday, December 3, 2018

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018

It’s unfortunate that I can’t physically see the world around me, but I always find a great comfort in the thought that the world is seeing me leading a meaningful life everyday. The painful experience of having to lose sight at the age of 9 and the ensuing years of hardships and struggle added a new meaning to my life and shaped my future. Among all the factors that have played a part in making me who I am today, I should say that education was the most important tool that actually crafted my destiny. Had I not been given the opportunity to go to school, I can’t even imagine how pathetic and painful my life would have been today. It is education that has widened my horizons and unlocked my door to independence and freedom. Today, the world sees me as a happily married man blest with a beautiful family and a successful career. But not all persons with disabilities are as fortunate and privileged as me. In many communities, disability is still seen as a major barrier to social inclusion and mass participation. As a result, there are many persons with disabilities who are still locked up in their homes, deprived of the right to participate in the mainstream social, economic, political and public life. If we can break all the social barriers and give them the voice they are entitled to, they would definitely be able to come out of their closets and contribute to nation-building. This was the gist of the theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed throughout the world today.

In Bhutan, the event themed “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” was celebrated in different parts of the country to recognize and promote the needs and rights of persons with disabilities as well as to celebrate their achievements. The celebration marked by thematic talks, cultural performances and some sporting activities was aimed at creating public awareness on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities and to call on the government and relevant agencies to work towards creating an inclusive society for all.

Although the disability movement in Bhutan seems to have begun since the establishment of Zangley Muenselling School for the Blind in Khaling in 1973, we still have some major tasks before us to completely break all the barriers and create a society that equally recognizes and respects of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life. Despite several major initiatives of the government undertaken within the past four and half decades to empower persons with disabilities, such as the institutionalization of special education programs throughout the country, many persons with disabilities are still lagging behind mainly due to physical and social barriers that divide them from rest of the population. As a mountainous country, the physical accessibility continues to remain as a major challenge for persons with disabilities. This challenge is further aggravated by the traditional belief systems of people and other social barriers that see disability as a curse or sin.

Bhutan has been signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) since September 2010 but no ratification of the convention has been endorsed in the parliament so far. We found a new ray of hope when the previous government initiated the drafting of the first ever National Disability Policy, but sadly, the government could not finalize it within its tenure. The only hope we have now is that the new government would take over the draft policy, finalize it and endorse it for the benefit of all of us. But to be honest, the policy alone won’t be enough to address the needs of persons with disabilities in the society. At the end of the day, we should have legal foundations to ensure the effective implementation of the policy. With no laws in place mandating the concerned agencies to respect and implement the National Disability Policy, it would not be easy for us to tackle the issues affecting the lives of persons with disabilities in the country. But with the observation of International Day of Persons with Disabilities every year, we are hopeful that our voices would certainly be heard someday and that we would have a harmonious society where we all can live together with equal respect, dignity, love and trust.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the insightful articles on the challenges and the initiative taken so far for the empowerment of the differently abled person. We as a happy country must strive to give equal rights and help to the disadvantaged people. I'm definitely going to support this. Thank you Sir.

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    1. Thank you so much for checking out this article of mine. I am humbled by your encouragement la.

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