Our Voices

07 October 2019

On 4th of October 2019, The National Coordinator (Nelly Caleb) of the Vanuatu Disability Promotion & Advocacy Association (VDPA) attended the official ceremony of the ground breaking of the New Government Finance Building. When assessing the construction plan, I was so shocked when I saw the construction plan was inaccessible for people with mobility impairments said Ms. Caleb. She continues to stress that people with disabilities, elderly, pregnant mothers and mothers with pram faced a lot of barriers to access these public building in the two main towns. The convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which the government has ratified in 2008, and it means the government agreed to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities and in article 9. People with disability have the right to live independently and take part in all aspects of life. To let them do that, countries need to take appropriate steps to give people with disability access, in the same way other people have access, to things, places, transport, information and services that are open to the public. This applies in the cities as well as in rural areas. The National people’s plan mentioned to leave no one behind, and Accessibility is part of the Pre- condition to Inclusion. However, VDPA wish to thank the Director General for giving some green light to ensure the New Finance building is accessible to people with disabilities. VDPA urged other Government Ministries and other sectors to ensure new infrastructures are disability friendly so no one is left behind. Nelly Caleb

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11 June 2019

Women with disabilities faced double and most times triple discrimination. Because they are women, they have a disability and the abuses they faced. Women with disabilities are excluded in decision makings at all levels. Most times they are seen as people with other rights. They are carers of a child with a disability, or Carers of elderly. Many barriers they faced does not allow them to enjoy their rights and freedoms as anyone else. For instance, VDPA in partnership with CBM New Zealand carried out a needs assessment, after the Mass evacuation from Ambae island due to heavy volcanic Ash fall out. the report showed that:•Evacuees with disabilities were instructed to leave their wheelchairs behind.•Women with disabilities are discriminated in evacuation centers because the centers are inaccessible and there is no privacy in the bathroom facilities.•Deaf women are the ones who are most marginalized especially, communicating and accessing information. VDPA compiled a standalone CEDAW report on Women and girls with disabilities to the UN CEDAW committee in 2016, we also participated at the 63rd CEDAW session, to ensure women with disabilities are also represented at the platform.The Vanuatu National Disability Inclusive Development plan 2018-2025 mentioned women with disabilities as one of the 8 priorities in the plan.The National Gender equality plan is partly inclusive of women and girls with disabilities.Inclusion and mainstreaming of women with disabilities at the national level. •8 women with disabilities attended the National women’s forum last year.•Women with disabilities committee members are active members of the Vanuatu Civil Society Influencing network.•Women with disabilities is a sub-group under the Vanuatu Civil Society disability network.•VDPA is also an active member of the Vanuatu Civil Society Influencing network.•Women with disabilities actively participated at the National Disability Influencing forum last year. But there is more to be done, because women and girls with disabilities in the rural and remote areas needs to be included as well in all development efforts.However, VDPA partnered with two other organizations to write the Alternative report on the UNCRPD in 2017 and submitted the report last year.DRF gave a special award to fund 7 people with disabilities to attend the UN CRPD session this year in Geneva. Four women with disabilities and three men with disabilities attended the interactive dialogue between the CRPD committee and our government. VDPA acknowledged and thanked DRF for this support.In April, VDPA organized a national Press conference in our capital town, we launched the UN recommendations urged government to do more and more on the implementation of the UN CRDP recommendations. Over 50 people attended this press conference.However, Reports that a produced are our powerful advocacy and monitoring tools. Recommendations:1. Working in partnerships to ensure that more women with disabilities participate in regional and international meeting /trainings/workshops2.Leave no one behind is applied at all levels, needs to be more practical Nelly Caleb

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24 July 2018

Pacific Island Countries and territories are extremely vulnerable to climate change and Natural hazards. Natural disaster cost Pacific Island Countries (PICs) on average 2% of GDP annually (about 248 million USD). In 2015, cyclone Pam inflicted damages amounting to an estimated 60 percent of GDP in Vanuatu and TC Winston, 20% of GDP for Fiji. Vanuatu is vulnerable to Natural Disasters and from our own experiences, people with disabilities are being discriminated before, during and after the disaster. For example, Category 5 Tropical cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu in 2015, and 11 people died, until today some people are still living in tents because there were no trees or leaves to build their houses. Worse still three months after the cyclone in 2015, El-Niño struck Vanuatu for 8 months, with no water in most areas on Vanuatu. October in 2017, the declaration of the state of emergency on Ambae Island was due to heavy volcano ash fall, 11,000 people were evacuated to other neighboring islands, majority of the population had to move to Santo where our office is located. Vanuatu Disability Promotion & Advocacy Association (VDPA) in partnership with CBM New Zealand did a needs assessment, the findings showed that the evacuation process was a challenge, for both adults and children with different impairment, and some of whom had never travel in their life. Their challenges for instance were:• People with disabilities who travelled by air were instructed to leave their wheelchairs and other assistive devices behind.• People with disabilities waited at receiving wharves for extended period of time, until they could be transferred to an evacuation center. Many suffered from thirst, hunger and heat rashes due to limited facilities available for sitting and resting at the wharves. These challenges and issues applied to other Pacific Countries as well, the Pacific Disability Forum in its effort, support persons with disabilities for better pre and post disaster preparations by having a strategic plan. The Pacific Disability Inclusive Preparedness and response plan. This strategic plan is our vision for achieving disability inclusion within Preparedness for response efforts throughout the Pacific. We can’t achieve this alone, and thus we invite others to work in partnership to help us achieve our vision.This plan is for working with partners, government and stakeholders. So Pacific Island countries and in particular Vanuatu will need to ensure that preparedness to response, during disaster and post disaster work plans are inclusive of persons with disabilities.While there has been clear steps towards disability inclusion in disability risk reduction in the Pacific, it is also crucial to recognize the importance of bridging social policies, development with DRR, humanitarian response and recovery. The use of existing social protection schemes to channel support of community support post disaster in Fiji and Tonga, or the support of community based programs in emergency relief, has demonstrated that the stronger, the national support system for persons with disabilities is, the more responsive and effective the post relieve supply will be.The issue of accessibility in post disaster relief has to be addressed more generally, as most countries do not have effective regulation and accessibility standards, rebuilding back better in the region does not yet systematically mean it is accessible for people with disabilities. Considering all this, my organization. VDPA recommends the following:1. Ensures persons with disabilities and their representative organizations play an equal representative role and are fully consulted in all activities; from planning to implementation and follow up.2. Strengthens national level dialogue between DPOs, NGOs, Governments, multilaterals, and all other stakeholders,3. Collect disaggregated data for people with disabilities so no one is left behind4. Countries who have not yet sign the Charter on Inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action on the rights of persons with disabilities to sign and implement the charter.In conclusion, in spirit of ‘leave no one behind’ we -can only stay true to its meaning if we put actions to our words. Nelly Caleb

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