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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives organised a Policy Roundtable on “Mainstreaming Interventions to address Disabilities in the National Youth Priority Action Agenda” on Wednesday.

The forum was chaired by First Lady Samina Alvi, a staunch and vocal proponent of disability equality.

The forum which was held in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the PM Kamyab Jawan Programme provided an opportunity for key stakeholders to come together and brainstorm on actionable ideas essential for the differently-abled youth.

In her keynote address, Samina Alvi stressed upon the government’s purposeful acknowledgement of the needs of young people living with disabilities and its extensive efforts to mainstream disability in the policy narrative.

She assured the audience of the government’s commitment to ensure that young people with disabilities benefit equally from the proposed policies and programmes, that inequality is not perpetuated, and that Pakistan achieves disability equality.

Speaking on the occasion, Additional Secretary Ministry of Planning Abdul Aziz Uqaili highlighted the importance of incorporating young people with special needs into the broader policy framework and stated that without incorporating their needs the country cannot expect to prosper.

Member Social Sector and Devolution Dr Shabnum Sarfraz underscored the scope of marginalisation of young people with disabilities, and the challenge confronting policy-makers in ensuring that the national youth policy leaves no one behind, and addresses the issues of accessibility, related poverty and opportunities for youth.

She implored the audience to propose disability mainstreaming policies that are actionable and can become an integral part of the national development agenda.

In his address, Country Representative World Health Organization Dr Palitha Mahipala emphasised on the need of national policies that ensure that youth with disabilities have an equal opportunity, inclusion and economic growth.

The Government of Pakistan acknowledges WHO’s leadership and holistic support in formulating disability legislation, disability strategic action framework, improving access to assistive technology and refining disability data.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr Nausheen Hamid encouraged the efforts of the Planning Commission and said that for inclusive growth it is imperative that all budgets, policies and programs are designed by keeping the differently-abled population in mind.

She also stressed on the importance of disability census, access to institutions, education, skills and jobs.

The differently-abled young participants in the policy roundtable highlighted challenges faced while accessing public facilities, seeking education and health care, and finding relevant employment and engagement opportunities.

They asked for adequate quota provisions to access jobs in public sector.

They also urged the governments to increase the budgetary provisions so that they may be able to access quality education.

Furthermore, they stressed on the importance of correct documentation through which they are able to access services specially designed for them.

In her closing note, Shireen Mazari, Minister for Human Rights appreciated the inputs received to mainstream disability in the national youth action agenda, and emphasised on the government taking a rights-based and inclusive approach to achieve disability equality.

The forum was also attended by industry leaders, including Dr Amjad Saqib, Chairman Akhuwat, Dr Alarcoz Cieza Global Lead Disability and Inclusion at WHO Geneva, Dr Khalid Jameel Akhtar, Former Dean of Faculty of Medical Rehabilitation at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr Huma Qureishi former Executive Director Pakistan Health Research Council, Lal Chand Parliamentary Secretary Human Rights, Ms. Wajeeha Qamar Parliamentary Secretary Education, Kanwal Shauzab Parliamentary Secretary Planning, MNA Kishawar Naheed, Senator Khalida Aziz, Sana Hafeez WHO Global Champion for Assistive Technologies, Humaira Bano Director Special Education at the University of Punjab, Rabia Awan Director PSLM as well as UN Partners, subject matter experts, key sectoral officers and differently-abled youth from across the country.

The Policy Roundtable is part of a larger series of youth policy setting dialogues being organized by the Planning Commission to further the vision of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

This is in recognition of youth as a powerful force for transformational change in the country.

This Pan-Pakistan consultative and participative process is aimed at formulating a National Youth Development Agenda for empowering and unleashing the youth potential.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021