Meaningful Engagement of OPDs: Inclusive processes for reaching under-represented groups of persons with disabilities in programming
New-York, 14 June 2023. In the framework of the 16th session of the Conference of States Parties to the UNCRPD, the OPD Partnership Task Group of the International Disability and Development Consortium has organised a side-event devoted to the Meaningful Engagement of organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) and the inclusive processes for reaching under-represented groups of persons with disabilities in programming.
While there has been a significant improvement in the inclusion of OPDs in both disability-specific and mainstream programming in recent years, this increase in meaningful engagement has not benefited the disability movement equally. Underrepresented groups, including OPDs representing people with intellectual disabilities, people with psychosocial disabilities, and people with deafblindness, still continue to be excluded from both access to official development assistance (ODA) and from programming partnerships. Building on concrete examples of inclusive practices implemented by IDDC members, the side-event provided actionable recommendations on inclusive practices for meaningful engagement of people with disabilities, and in particular people with intellectual disabilities, people with psychosocial disabilities, people with deafblindness, and other underrepresented groups. Promoting their meaningful engagement is not only a matter of social justice but also a prerequisite for achieving inclusive and sustainable development.
International Disability Alliance (IDA), represented by Jose Maria Viera, opened
the side-event by highlighting the pressing need to prioritise meaningful
participation for persons with disabilities. People with disabilities are
disproportionately affected by crises as policies and actions often overlook
their needs and perspectives. Meaningful participation, coupled with
accessibility, is essential for the inclusion of people with disabilities.
Reflecting on how to ensure meaningful engagement, Jose put forth several
recommendations. First and foremost, investment and outreach should be targeted
at reaching the furthest behind and ensuring their safety and participation in
ways that they desire. Second, collaboration between organisations are key:
OPDs bring the lived experiences and perspectives, while NGOs contribute
valuable experience and knowledge from working on different agendas. Finally, it
is crucial to adopt an intersectionality approach, considering various aspects
such as gender, indigenous background, age, and others, while striving for
greater participation of underrepresented groups.
Gumberize, Member of the IDDC OPD Steering Group and Board member at the
Georgian network of women with disabilities, shared her experience as an OPD
representative involved in developing IDDC’s Guidance Note on OPD Engagement.
She shared that good practices include regular meetings, respecting agendas and
timings, providing materials in accessible formats, using plain language,
providing interpretation and captioning, and ensuring that all information is
verbalised for those with sensory disabilities. Paid participation is crucial
to avoid patronizing attitudes and value the contributions of underrepresented
groups. In addition, Esma underlined that accountability is vital, ensuring
that OPDs contribution is not just heard but actually listened to.
Tak Hung and Chan Tsun Kit from Chosen Power / People first Hong Kong shared
their experiences in creating the Listen, Include, Respect
International Guidelines for Inclusive
Participation. They emphasized the importance of easy-to-understand agendas,
reminders to support self-advocates and their supporters, icebreaker
activities, clear presentation of discussion themes, dedicated time for
self-advocates to express their ideas and questions, summarising conclusions, and
providing notes for future meetings. Paying self-advocates and supporters for
their participation and keeping meeting durations to a reasonable limit of 1.5
hours enhances their engagement. Online meetings can also increase
accessibility and support participation.
Umutesi from the Pan African Network of People with Psychosocial Disabilities
highlighted aspects of their inclusive partnership with Humanity &
Inclusion (HI). Through skills development, capacity building, networking, and
consultation, HI ensures the meaningful inclusion of OPDs as equal partners. She
encourages organisations to learn from this model by investing in training and
self-advocacy, fostering networks, and involving OPDs in decision-making
Adhikari from the National Federation of Deaf in Nepal shed light on the
importance of meaningful participation for the deaf community, particularly
those who are deafblind. Collaborative efforts with Sense International and the
DID Inclusive Future Programme have led to positive changes in Nepal, such as
the inclusion of deafblindness data in the national census and the provision of
home-based education and therapy services. Clear definitions, identification
processes, and awareness of the requirements for meaningful participation are
essential for underrepresented groups to engage.
Ataaba, a leader representing women with disabilities in Turkana county in Kenya,
emphasized how CBM Global Disability Inclusion ensures the full inclusion of
women with disabilities and OPDs in their programming. Open and inclusive
partnerships with organizations led by underrepresented groups facilitate the
sharing of ideas and experiences. Supporting representative organizations by
providing budgetary support, capacity building, and access to information and
communication strengthens their participation.
Rubin, Secretary General of Smile Disability Generation in Tanzania,
highlighted ADD International’s efforts to ensure the meaningful inclusion of
indigenous youth with disabilities. ADD International supports young leaders
through mentoring, skills development, and participatory grant making: people
with disabilities from the global South will have more say on how the money is
used and have the power to decide which organisation project or area should
receive funding. In addition, they encourage collective action, movement
building, and collaboration among organizational leaders in the Asia region.
Daniel encouraged organisations to model to follow ADD International’s example
by having a space where OPDs advocate for their own issues, placing people with
disability at the centre of decision-making processes rather than deciding for
them and having mentors/role models within the organisation.
Olivia Ah-Noah from the UK Commonwealth
Development Office (FCDO) concluded the session explaining how FCDO’s
Disability Inclusive Development (DID) program emphasizes meaningful engagement
with OPDs. The program ensures OPDs’ active involvement in project design,
governance, implementation, learning, and dissemination. They engage
underrepresented groups, such as girls and women with disabilities,
psychosocial disabilities, intellectual disabilities, Deafblind persons,
autistic persons, Indigenous persons, and refugees. OPDs are involved in
decision-making, assessment, design, implementation, monitoring, and linking
projects with local authority services. They recently published internal
guidance on engaging organizations of persons with disabilities, highlighting
the importance of meaningful engagement and an intersectional perspective. The
document provides practical advice on hosting accessible meetings and
emphasizes the involvement of historically underrepresented groups.
Recording coming soon