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ISLAMABAD: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Special Talent Exchange Programme (STEP) in joint collaboration with Australian High Commission on Friday celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) as part of 16 Days of Activism campaign on prevention from Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

This year’s theme, “United in action to rescue and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for, with, and by persons with disabilities,” emphasizes the collective efforts required to work collaboratively toward achieving the SDGs, ensuring that individuals with disabilities are active partners in this endeavor and that their unique perspectives and abilities are valued and integrated into the global development agenda.

The senior representatives of the UNFPA, Australian High Commission, Government Officials, representatives of various NGOs working on inclusivity and resilience building, academic fraternity, and the public from various walks of life participated in the event. During the event, accessibility was ensured for persons with disabilities, including venue accessibility, international sign language interpretation, and live captioning.

UNFPA’s Deputy Representative Latika Maskey Pardhan said that through over four decades of partnership, Australia remains dedicated to enhancing the inclusion of persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Pakistan's humanitarian and developmental landscape. From championing initiatives in gender equality, food, and water security to tackling climate change, Australia stands firm in its support, he added.

Whether through grassroots cricket clinics for underprivileged schoolgirls or collaborating with the Pakistan Blind Cricket Council for the blind women's cricket team, these efforts align with our commitment to fostering disability-inclusive development. We affirm our pledge to empower PWDs in Pakistan, enabling them to break the chains of poverty and unlock their boundless potential, he resolved.

The event comprised presentations on access to GBV services by persons with disabilities, especially under the humanitarian context, panel discussion, and recognition ceremony for champions of disabilities.

It is worth mentioning here that IDPD is a globally recognized observance that underscores the importance of promoting the rights, dignity, and well-being of individuals with disabilities and is celebrated annually on 3rd December.

The speakers of the event were of the view that persons with disabilities already face systematic discrimination, are more at risk of living in poverty, being excluded from the development discourse and are left behind in emergency relief and response efforts. Especially women with disabilities are up to 10 times more likely to experience GBV.

Chief Guest of the event Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of Child Ayesha Raza Farooq said that these effects are multiplied for people who experience intersecting forms of discrimination, including women, children, older persons, and indigenous people with disabilities.

“The term intersecting discrimination is often used to describe the situation of persons with disabilities due to the exclusion that many persons with disabilities encounter about their gender, age, social and economic status, and disability,” she said.

Dr Yasmin Zaidi Team Leader Awaz II said what legislative frameworks we have across provinces and their effectiveness in terms of implementation. Thus, disability may look different and produce unique forms of disadvantage and privilege when intersecting with various identities.

Zulekha from National Disaster Management recalled the lessons from designing resilience-building projects and initiatives that promoted meaningful participation and leadership of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in humanitarian response strategies?

Nisar Ahmed highlighted that that how can inter-sectionality be addressed and stressed on the needs of underrepresented groups such as women and girls with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous Peoples, refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and gender minorities, persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, persons with deaf-blindness and others, who face higher risks of being left behind in disaster risk reduction and recovery.

Abia Akram of STEP stated that accessibility and universal design are often ignored in Build Back Better strategies or climate adaptation, DRR policies resulting in the building of new inaccessible infrastructure leading to further discrimination and deeper inequalities.

In addition, the importance of addressing GBV faced by women with disabilities and the role of service providers are crucial for ensuring that GBV services are accessible and responsive to individuals with disabilities.

Atif from STEP reaffirmed that the collective efforts for this noble cause would be continued. He said that the initiatives taken by STEP management yielded positive impact as to foster a society where accessibility and inclusivity are at the core of GBV support systems.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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