In December 2016, the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), organised the first European Disability and Development Week (EDDW) – Together for Inclusion. The choice of dates was symbolic as the EDDW started on 3rd December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and ended on 10th of December, Human Rights Day.
As the first regional body to ratify the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the European Union (EU) plays a powerful role in breaking the cycle of poverty and disability. The EDDW has first and foremost been an opportunity to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the UN CRPD but also to think about the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their impact on the lives of all. All the activities organised by IDDC partners have emphasised the importance to “Leave no one behind” by showcasing positive stories on what has been achieved but also by raising awareness among the European decision-makers and other stakeholders. In several events DPO representatives from different countries such as Togo, Burkina Faso and Kenya shared their stories and their work, raising the voice of the South.
Multiple events were organised and different topics addressed. From independent living, to the economic gains of inclusion, to the benefits of inclusive education and inclusive technical and vocational training, to the need for an inclusive humanitarian framework: all events showed that we really do stand together for inclusion.
On Thursday 8th December IDDC organised a panel discussion on the challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities. The broader framework on the rights of women and girls with disabilities was explained by Mary Keogh from CBM International. She made specific reference to SDG 5 on gender equality and made a plea towards the disability community to always include a gender lens into the work. This should start to tackle the multiple discrimination women and girls with disabilities still too often face. Nadia Hadad from the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) recognised the importance to ban all institutionalisation to ensure that women with disabilities can live independently. Lieke Scheewe from Light for the World shared examples from Ethiopia that the right to sexual and reproductive health is definitely not evident for women with disabilities. Finally, the session was closed by Ayassou Komivi from the African Disability Forum (ADF) who used examples to explain the barriers women with disabilities are facing in Togo and how the SDGs and the CRPD could help in changing attitudes and tackling barriers.
Despite the different topics of events during the EDDW one message kept coming back. In nearly all events the importance of data disaggregation to promote the rights of persons with disabilities was stressed. Francois Carbonez, from the Board of IDDC put it very clear: “If you are not included in the data, you are not visible”. We should make sure persons with disabilities are included in data collection.
For IDDC, this first European Disability and Development Week was a success and we are already looking forward to next year.