a new approach to implement the new disability rights act

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On the 6th of August, the Parliament endorsed the Disability Rights Bill, potentially heralding a new era for persons with disabilities in the country. It has been a great achievement for the National Federation of the Disable- Nepal, NFDN and it was a long due move by the state.

As stated in a press release issued by the NFDN the new Disability Act, the purpose behind the formulation of this act was amendment of Disabled Protection and Welfare act 1982, stepping ahead for the domestication of UNCRPD and incorporating the disability related provision ensured by the constitution of Nepal 2072”.

Always according to the same press release, the Act is important because strengthens the rights of persons with disabilities in matter of equal access to education, health, employment, public physical infrastructure, transportation and information & communication service and very importantly it has been designed keeping in mind the new federal set up being embraced by the country.

Equally important is the fact that mental health and developmental disabilities are fully recognized and given due space in the Act.

This is very critical because persons suffering of mental disabilities or any other developmental disabilities have always been neglected and discriminated in ways much bigger than the persons living with physical disabilities.

While I will leave to another piece a review of the Act’s details, here I would like to focus on some considerations on how to make the Act real on the ground.

This will require new partnerships and effective, cutting edge communication effort.

Enacting the bill was possible only because of the strong cooperation between NDFD and Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.

The Federation has been involved in all the single steps of the process and they were very active since the conceptualization of the bill.

Such collaboration between civil society and the government should be considered as a best practice in terms of cross sector partnerships and should inspire other non-state actors to work more closely with the government wherever it is possible.

Designing a new legislation requires consistency, long term commitment but also a strong will and capacity to offer alternative solutions and opinions. Implementing the new Act will require as much or probably even more efforts.

Advocacy and lobbying were the core tools to achieve such ambitious goals but now the real challenge will be in the implementation of the new legislation.

It is now time for creating large coalitions of stakeholders ready to work together at the implementation level.

A massive exercise in community based communication coupled with catchy advertisements and radio and TV programs that put disability at the center could make the difference, reaching out millions of people, making them, not only aware of the new provisions but also more sensitive on the problems faced by persons with disabilities.

I have no doubt that we need to involve the best minds in terms of marketing and communication.

The Marie Stops Nepal’s Rocket & Space campaign on sexual and reproductive health targeting youths has been an incredible success because it was designed and implemented professionally.

Using cartoon like modern characters representing the average youths, Rocket & Space was able to hit the right buttons and had an immediate impact among the youths of the country.

Something similar should also be conceptualized to raise awareness about disability and the broader sector of gender equality and social inclusion.

Talking about disability or social inclusion is not only difficult but also very sensitive and could easily become very theoretical and to some extent, even boring.

At the end of the day, it is really true that if you do not feel something, you do not really get involved on it, meaning that you won’t engage in a cause unless you fully understand the problems and consequences faced by non-action in that particular issue.

We need to be able to strike the right chord, get people emotional and let them imagine or even feel how hard is cope in a society that is not disable friendly.

We need to make disability and the entire discourse on social inclusion simpler and easier to understand for the common public, the vast majority of those who can go on with their lives because they are not affected by the issue.

We need to have some champions or ambassadors, people who attracts attention and following not in a one off basis but on long term. 

It literally took years to NFDN to achieve the milestone represented by the new Act. Equally creating a catchy public narrative on disability and social inclusion will be a long time consuming effort.

By bringing in and involving the best minds of the creative sector, we can come up with convincing, engaging messages that can literally engage the public, letting them understand that disability discrimination and social exclusion  are not just  problems of few but a lost opportunity for the entire country.

An idea: why not sitting in an informal round table with the winners of the Crity Awards, the top recognition for the advertisement industry of the country?

Involving, for example the Advertising Association of Nepal and other marketing agencies in a process of brainstorming and ideation could generate amazing ideas to pitch social inclusion to the nation.

Yes money, quite big money would be needed at the end but I sense that with some great proposals on a massive communication plan on disability and social inclusion, it won’t be hard to convince the government and some donors to chip in.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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