The legislation, approved on 10 January, will make it illegal to discriminate or exclude people on the basis of disability.
Pakistan’s first-ever Disability Rights Act becomes law
Sightsavers has joined campaign groups in Pakistan to welcome a new law that will make it illegal to discriminate or exclude people on the basis of disability.
The Disability Rights Act, approved on 10 January, will provide a comprehensive legal framework to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities in Pakistan.
This ground-breaking legislation comes after more than 5,200 Pakistanis signed a petition that was handed to parliament in December last year. The petition was part of the Equal World campaign, launched in Pakistan by Sightsavers, the National Forum of Women with Disabilities and the Community Based Inclusion Development Network (CBIDN).
“The introduction of this law represents a historic step for our country and we thank the government for making this happen,” said Sightsavers’ Pakistan country director Munazza Gilliani. “Every day, thousands of people are excluded from public life simply because they have a disability. This new law will allow us to challenge incidents involving this kind of discrimination through the legal system. It gives individuals legal recourse in all areas of life including education, employment and healthcare.”
Asim Zafar, secretariat coordinator of the CBIDN, said: “We thank the government for taking action on this issue and look forward to working with them to ensure its fullest realisation.”
In 2019 we campaigned for disability rights in 14 countries around the world. Here’s what we did and some of the impact it’s had so far.
Highlights from a year of disability rights campaigning
In February 2019, Sightsavers Ireland launched its Put Us in the Picture disability rights campaign.
It called on the Irish government to prioritise people with disabilities in its global development policy, A Better World, as well as calling on leaders to use Ireland’s influence as a member state of the United Nations to uphold the rights of people with disabilities.
In June, we launched our campaign petition to the Irish government as a national-level call under our global petition to the UN. We also had national calls in 13 other countries, pushing for progress on the passing and implementation of disability legislation. We collected signatures online and at festivals and events such as Electric Picnic, but also wanted to make sure people in developing countries who might not have access to the internet could take part. To achieve this, Sightsavers’ technical team developed an innovative app that allowed campaigners to gather signatures using mobile devices. This made a huge difference in reaching people who would ordinarily be excluded from participating in this type of campaigning.
Campaigning in Ireland successfully led to a commitment from the tánaiste to make Ireland’s A Better World development policy disability-inclusive. The petition, which was signed by 5,000 people, was handed in to Maureen O’Sullivan TD on behalf of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence. Sightsavers Ireland also helped to secure Statements in Seanad Éireann to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December), during which our campaign was highlighted by Senator Lynn Ruane.
On the same day in New York at the UN headquarters, the global petition with 50,455 signatures was handed in to UN under-secretary-general Ana Maria Menéndez.
Here’s a roundup of other activity around the world, and some of the impact it’s had so far.
In 2019 we campaigned for disability rights in 14 countries around the world. Here’s what we did and some of the impact it’s had so far.
#EqualWorld: Highlights from a year of global campaigning
In March 2019, following five years of successful disability rights campaigning in the UK, Sightsavers launched its Equal World campaign.
This global campaign calls for the UN and its member states to ensure the rights of all people with disabilities are upheld.
In June, we launched our Equal World petition. Alongside its global call, it had national-level calls in 14 countries, pushing for progress on the passing and implementation of disability legislation. We collected signatures online, but also wanted to make sure people who might not have access to the internet could take part. To achieve this, Sightsavers’ technical team developed an innovative app that allowed campaigners to gather signatures using mobile devices, which could then be transmitted to our head office once the collector was back online. This made a huge difference in reaching people who would ordinarily be excluded from participating in this type of campaigning.
The global petition gained more than 50,000 signatures, and in December it was handed in to UN under-secretary-general Ana Maria Menéndez.
We campaigned for disability rights in 14 countries around the world. Here’s a roundup of the activity around the world, and some of the impact it’s had so far.
The global petition was received by Ana Maria Menéndez, who is Under-Secretary-General and the UN Secretary-General’s senior adviser on policy.
Sightsavers hands disability petition with 50,000 signatures to UN
Sightsavers has handed in its Equal World disability rights petition, signed by 50,455 people, to a representative of the United Nations Secretary-General’s office in New York.
The petition is part of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, which fights for an end to disability discrimination and inequality.
The petition consists of a global call for the UN and its member states to uphold the rights of people with disabilities, as well as national-level calls in 14 countries for action on disability legislation and policies (the national petitions are being handed in to the relevant governments).
As well as the online petition form, an innovative app was used to collect offline signatures by campaigners working in the field. People in remote areas could sign with their finger on a mobile device, and the signature collectors could then upload the information when they returned to an area with an internet connection.
The global petition was received by Ana Maria Menéndez, who is Under-Secretary-General and the UN Secretary-General’s senior adviser on policy. It was handed in by Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, Sightsavers’ advocacy adviser for social inclusion and member of the committee that monitors the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, along with Juliet Milgate, Head of Policy, and Natasha Kennedy, Head of Multilaterals and Campaigns.
Speaking after the hand-in event, Natasha Kennedy said: “We were very proud to hand in our global petition to the UN today, while around the world our colleagues have been handing in their national petitions to their leaders. We’ve seen amazing support from all our campaigning countries, showing that people worldwide support our call for the rights of people with disabilities to be upheld. We’ll keep fighting for disability rights and for an end to discrimination – this is essential if the Global Goals set by the UN in 2015 are ever to be achieved.”
Throughout 2019, Sightsavers has used its Put Us in the Picture disability campaign to ask political leaders to ensure people with disabilities aren’t left behind in global aid.
Sightsavers Ireland delivers 5,000-signature petition to Irish leaders
Sightsavers Ireland has handed in its petition calling for the Irish government to prioritise people with disabilities in its global development policy.
The petition, which attracted more than 5,000 signatures, was received by Maureen O’Sullivan TD on behalf of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence. The national petition call was also linked to a wider global call for the UN to uphold disability rights – this gained more than 50,000 signatures worldwide and is being handed in to the UN Under-Secretary-General Ana Maria Menéndez.
Throughout 2019, Sightsavers has used its Put Us in the Picture disability campaign to ask political leaders to ensure people with disabilities aren’t left behind in global aid. The campaign, and the petition, have successfully led to a commitment from the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to make Ireland’s A Better World development policy disability-inclusive.
The campaigning work of Put Us in the Picture also resulted in Sightsavers’ Regional Director from West Africa presenting evidence to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence, which led to a commitment made by the Committee to host an annual meeting on disability inclusion and to track the Irish government’s progress on inclusive development.
As part of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, supporters are sharing photos of their hands on social media to call on the UN to uphold the rights of people with disabilities.
Disability campaigners put their hands up for an equal world
Sightsavers’ Equal World disability rights campaign is celebrating International Day of People with Disabilities by asking supporters to take part in a ‘hands up’ activity on social media.
Campaign supporters are sharing photos of their hands with an equals symbol drawn on their palm and a message of support for Sightsavers’ campaign, which calls on the United Nations and its member states to uphold the rights of people with disabilities worldwide.
The activity also coincides with the end of Sightsavers’ global Equal World petition, which has gathered signatures from around the world. It will be handed in to a representative of the UN Secretary-General’s office at UN headquarters in New York.
— Sumrana Yasmin (@SumranaYasmin) December 3, 2019
Find out more about the Equal World campaign.
We’re calling on the next UK government to tackle inequality, make aid inclusive, keep working to eliminate neglected tropical diseases and support affordable, accessible healthcare.
Sightsavers’ 2019 election manifesto: What we want from the next government
Here’s where we stand and what we want to see from whoever is leading the country after the UK general election on 12 December.
We’re calling on the next UK government to:
- tackle inequality and marginalisation
- make UK aid inclusive of people with disabilities
- leave no one behind in plans to fight global poverty
- keep working to eliminate neglected tropical diseases
- support strong global health systems and affordable, accessible healthcare
2020 is a crucial year for the UK and countries around the world. It marks a ten-year countdown to achieve the Global Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2015, set out a global commitment to end poverty and put the world on a path to inclusive development by 2030.
The goals will help bring about a more equitable world for everyone, including one billion people with disabilities worldwide, 800 million of whom live in developing countries. Many people with disabilities currently experience significant barriers in claiming their right to education, healthcare and employment, and to participate fully in political life.
It’s vital that the next UK government – whichever party or parties it includes – is ready to meet the country’s commitment, made at the 2018 Global Disability Summit, to become a global leader on disability, and support others to become more disability-inclusive. By doing this, the UK can help make sure that real change is delivered for the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.
A survey of civil society organisations, co-edited by Sightsavers, is being published this week during the Sustainable Development Goals summit at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Civil society survey finds mixed results on SDGs progress
A survey of civil society and international organisations, co-edited by Sightsavers, has been published this week during the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) summit at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The perceptions survey, titled Commitments and challenges: stakeholder participation in follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals, was conducted by Together 2030 and Newcastle University. It has a particular focus on the Voluntary National Review (VNR) process, where countries report on their progress towards the achievement of the SDGs.
The report focuses on three main issues: the amount of awareness of, and participation in, the process of VNRs; how responders are involved in review and implementation processes; and what, if any, progress has been seen on SDG implementation since 2015?
The 2019 report finds that there has been progress on increasing civil society awareness of (and participation in) VNRs – but also that there is no evidence that this awareness and engagement have made the VNRs more rigorous or effective in boosting SDG implementation. Most respondents report that they have seen little progress in their countries after VNRs.
The report also finds that VNR processes continue to exclude or leave behind marginalised groups, and that VNR processes have not always consistent with the United Nations guidelines and handbook for VNRs.
Report co-editor and Sightsavers’ Advocacy Adviser, Aissata Ndiaye, has written a blog about challenges that must be addressed following the survey, most notably the need “to see governments making more effort to ensure marginalised people are not just included, but included in a meaningful way. Because if marginalised groups are not meaningfully included, our efforts to implement the ‘leave no one behind’ principle – the essence of the SDGs – will fail.”
The full report is available on the Together 2030 website.
It has become the latest country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, which allows exceptions to standard copyright laws so books can be reproduced in braille and other accessible formats.
Tanzania joins the push to make accessible books more widely available
Tanzania has become the latest country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, which aims to make books more widely available in accessible formats such as braille.
The treaty was ratified in Tanzania’s parliament on 11 September 2019, paving the way for more books to be published for people with visual impairments.
It means Tanzania will allow exceptions to standard copyright laws, to enable published works to be reproduced and distributed in accessible formats. The aim is to combat the ‘book famine’ that has meant people with visual impairments have been unable to read many books because of copyright limitations.
The treaty also ensures that accessible books and publications can be shared across international borders.
Tanzania’s minister for industry and trade Innocent Bashungwa, who tabled the treaty, said: “There’s a real need to endorse the treaty, taking into account that the majority of people with visual impairments or other disabilities live in developing countries.” He added that the treaty aims to give people with disabilities a choice, reinforces their right to education and enables them to carry out research.
The treaty was originally adopted on 27 June 2013 and has already been ratified by more than 85 countries, including all 28 member states of the EU.
The Inclusion Works programme, funded by UK aid and led by Sightsavers, will create job opportunities for more than 2,000 people with disabilities.
Groundbreaking new programme will enable 2,000 people with disabilities to get better jobs
Sightsavers and partners have launched an innovative programme to address the barriers that prevent millions of people with disabilities from finding mainstream jobs.
The Inclusion Works programme, funded by UK aid and led by Sightsavers, will pilot new ways to create job opportunities for more than 2,000 people with disabilities in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh over the next three years.
It aims to make practical changes to the way companies train and hire people with disabilities, such as offering training initiatives and internships. It will work with more than 100 private and public employers to test new approaches that follow the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Inclusion Works will also generate evidence about how people with disabilities can be supported to find inclusive employment. It will help disability organisations in each country to develop their own knowledge and resources, so they can continue the work once the programme ends.
The programme brings together 10 partners alongside Sightsavers, including ADD International, BBC Media Action, Benetech, Development Initiatives, Humanity and Inclusion UK, Inclusion International, the International Disability Alliance, the Institute of Development Studies, Standard Chartered and the Youth Career Initiative.
UK aid announced its funding for the programme last year as it co-hosted the first Global Disability Summit in London.
Sightsavers’ Simon Brown, who has been developing the programme, said: “Young people with disabilities living in these countries play an integral role in helping us define what success looks like in this programme and helping us shape its objectives.
“We have also been talking to major companies who clearly want to tap into this talent pool, but need to overcome certain barriers themselves.”
Vladimir Cuk from the International Disability Alliance said: “Reliable data about people with disabilities is often scarce. While we know employment rates are really low, most programmes tackling this have been on such a small scale that it hasn’t been possible to make a real dent on the wider system.
“Inclusion Works is aiming to make a significant contribution towards greater compliance of the formal employment sector with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, changing the whole culture around recruiting and retaining people with disabilities.”
The programme will include people of a wide range of disabilities. It is part of the Inclusive Futures initiative, a wider drive funded by UK aid to create an equal world for people with disabilities in low and middle income countries.
The programme is a part of the Inclusive Futures initiative, ensuring people with disabilities are able to represent themselves and make their own decisions. The brand covers the Inclusion Works and Disability Inclusive Development programmes, both of which are led by Sightsavers and funded by UK aid.
The petition is part of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, and calls on the government of Kenya, the United Nations and its member states to uphold the rights of people with disabilities.
Sightsavers Kenya launches disability rights petition
Sightsavers Kenya is launching a petition calling on the government of Kenya, the United Nations and its member states to uphold the rights of people with disabilities.
The petition is part of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, which works globally to ensure the United Nations implements its new disability strategy. Nationally, Equal World calls on specific country governments to meet commitments on disability inclusion.
Sightsavers Kenya is launching the Equal World petition to urge the nation’s government to fulfil its commitment to ensure people with disabilities make up at least 5 per cent of the country’s public and private-sector workforce. The Kenyan government made this promise, along with a number of other commitments, during the Global Disability Summit in London last year.
Sightsavers global advocacy adviser Martin Okiyo said: “In Kenya and around the world, people with disabilities are denied the right to go to school, find a job, access health care and take part in political processes. This discrimination is an injustice on a mass scale.
“The Kenyan government worked to change this situation when it co-hosted the world’s first ever Global Disability Summit last year. We commend this and now ask that it takes concrete steps to deliver against the promises made.”
Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign is calling on political leaders and global organisations to ensure people with disabilities in low and middle income countries can claim their rights and participate fully in society. Campaign team manager Tessa Murphy said: “We want to show the widespread support for disability rights around the world. We want every government and the UN to know that people everywhere are no longer prepared to tolerate the rights of 15 per cent of the world’s population being denied.”
As well as its global call to the UN, the Equal World petition is targeting the governments of Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, India, Ireland, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda. Petition signatures will be collected until December and handed in on 3 December to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities. To sign the petition, visit www.sightsavers.org/EqualWorld
It is estimated that there are over 134,600 people with albinism living in Malawi, many of whom face deep-seated discrimination.
Sightsavers petition calls on government of Malawi to protect people with albinism
A petition calling on the government of Malawi to deliver its promise to protect people with albinism has been launched today by Sightsavers and the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM).
The two organisations have chosen International Albinism Awareness Day to urge the government to progress the implementation of its 2018 National Action Plan. In Malawi, people with albinism are at risk of being murdered or abducted due to false beliefs that their body parts can be used for good luck in witchcraft rituals.
Albinism is a rare, genetic condition that causes the skin, eyes, and hair to have little or no melanin.
It is estimated that there are over 134,600 people with albinism living in Malawi, many of whom face deep-seated discrimination. As a result, they are often denied the same opportunities for education, health care and other social services as their peers.
This unequal treatment is fuelled by superstition. In Malawi, some people believe that people with albinism have magic in their bones that could make others rich. Some will pay huge sums for the body parts of people with albinism.
Sightsavers Malawi Country Director, Bright Chiwaula, said: “’Still Standing Strong’ is the theme for this year’s International Albinism Awareness Day. Persons with albinism face huge injustices that prevent them from enjoying their rights as part of society. We are proud to recognise, celebrate and stand in solidarity with our courageous partners in APAM as well as with other persons with albinism around the world.
“The time is now for all Malawians to show enough is enough and to demonstrate the strength of public feeling on this issue.”
APAM’s National Coordinator, Overstone Kondowe, said: “We are human beings too and have an equal right to be included in society and live in safety. The National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism in Malawi is designed to deliver this in all areas of life including education, employment and safety, but policies mean little if they are not delivered. We need to see concrete actions and plans being implemented.”
He added, “Our message is: let us celebrate the lives of those few who have chosen not to remain silent, [who have] risked their lives but are still standing strong in fighting this evil. As Malawians, let us reflect on whether we are ready to stand strong in fighting this vice.”
The petition will close in September 2019. It is part of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, which has also launched a global petition calling for the United Nations and its member states to uphold disability rights.