Empowering Persons with Disabilities
Nepal, with a population of about 29 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world with a per capita income of US$440 per year1. Poverty creates a greater risk of disability due to malnutrition and inadequate access to medical care, particularly in remote areas2. Additionally, in 1995 to 2006, Nepal faced an armed internal conflict in which landmines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were used. Many survivors, who lost limbs during the conflict, face ongoing problems.
In the aftermath of the conflict in Nepal, NCBL’s biggest area of work is conducting advocacy programs for the survivors of landmines and IEDs, and rights of persons with disabilities. For the past eight years, NCBL has conducted multiple advocacy programs for people with disabilities. NCBL prioritizes people that were maimed and disabled during the conflict, but has expanded its programming to help assist victims of the 2015 earthquake as well. NCBL’s advocacy work gives survivors of landmines and IEDs, and persons with disabilities (PWDs) a voice. These individuals face many barriers in their everyday lives. From issues with mobility, to difficulty of earning money for their families, living with a disability can be a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be. This past year, NCBL has organized many meetings with the National Network of Mine Victims and with high-level government authorities and security forces in order to give a voice to survivors. This has been achieved through improved cooperation between local government and various other organizations.
To protect the lives of civilians and to minimize the number of victims of landmines, IEDs and Explosives Remnants of War (ERW), NCBL organized Mine Risk Education (MRE) programs. MRE programs were held in multiple districts and have changed people’s perceptions on the issue of landmines. NCBL was the first organization in Nepal to highlight the issue of landmines. NCBL has conducted numerous programs to raise awareness within civil society about the loss of lives and property, caused by landmines and IEDs in Nepal, and to create pressure on the Government of Nepal to ban the production, transfer, use and stockpiling of landmines in order to enhance world peace.
To empower victims of landmines and ERW, NCBL has provided multiple forms of training to victims. NCBL established a network of victims called the National Network of Mine Victims (NNMV) among representatives from 42 districts of Nepal. Through this network, NCBL has organized various activities at the grassroots level. This network allows NCBL to work together with persons with disabilities, local authorities, local supporters, media personnel, etc. The victims, together with persons with disabilities, are given improved access to the opportunities they need to fulfill their goals. NCBL provides capacity building tools, in order to help survivors’ live sustainable lives.
NCBL’s Livelihood Projects have supported over 200 survivors of landmines, IEDs, PWDs and the 2015 earthquake. The project further empowers survivors, and assists them in providing for their families. In 2015, some survivors were able to participate in sporting events around the world. Hiramani Adhikari competed in a Taekwondo tournament in Taiwan, and Sunil Thapa competed in the 20/20 cricket tournament in India. NCBL was also able to support 32 girls with disabilities, which allowed them to attend school. Education allows the girls to have many opportunities in the future and prevents them from being limited by their disability. To assist with mobility, 14 pairs of crutches and 5 wheelchairs were distributed to individuals in multiple communities this past year.
NCBL understands that it is vital to empower victims and persons with disabilities. It also understands that it is important to scale up NCBL’s work (and/or coverage) through the government. On December 3rd, NCBL, the government and other organizations partnered to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The Government of Nepal has already ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); however, despite being frequently debated, a national law has yet to be implemented. This impedes NCBL’s ability to increase its support efforts at the National level. NCBL continues to work with the government, and has hopes that a national law will be implemented in order to protect people with disabilities within the country.
Livelihood programs are a part of NCBL’s efforts to alleviate the harsh living conditions faced by many of the victims of landmine and IED accidents. Being disabled in poverty-stricken conditions makes living conditions much harsher. In 2015, the members of National Network of Mine Victim organized a 40 day salon training program for 20 persons with disabilities. The workshop allowed individuals to be properly trained to work in local barbershops and hair salons. Teaching survivors new skills is extremely important, as it increases their mobility in society, and allows them earn a living wage. With this in mind, NCBL conducted various other training programs and other basic livelihood programs. These initiatives have helped many victims make a decent living. In the past, as part of the livelihood program, NCBL has supported individuals through the provision of livestock (Chicken, pig, buffalo, cow etc), and helping to establish small shops that sell vegetables, cosmetics and teas. Training in manufacturing allowed survivors to become skilled in tasks such as, candle making, bicycle repair etc.
WODES/NCBL is proud to have been able to sponsor more than 800 girls for their education. The “Girl Child Education Program” was started in 1998. This program has seen gradual growth and now supports 220 children per year from grades 1 through 10 with their education. NCBL has also started supporting children with disabilities.
There is still a lot of work to be done. NCBL plans to take the following steps to ensure the work gets done:
1. NCBL will actively seek donors to help improve the educational scholarship program. WODES/NCBL aims to increase the number of sponsored students to more than 500/yr.
2. NCBL will improve and expand the livelihood programs.
3. NCBL will continue advocacy activities to pressure the government to follow the guidelines of Cartagena Action Plan (PAP), Vientiane Action Plan (VAP) and to make national legislation on Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
4. Since NCBL believes in cooperation, it will keep working with people from different fields and other organizations.