Inclusive growth in focus as Bhutan marks International Day of Persons With Disabilities

Observing the International Day of Persons With Disabilities today, organisations working for the people living with disabilities in Bhutan marked the day with the theme ‘United We Stand’ in Thimphu. They aim to encourage cooperation among relevant stakeholders to advocate and promote the rights and well-being of Persons With Disabilities. 

Organisations such as the Ability Bhutan Society, Disabled People’s Organisation of Bhutan, Phensem Parents Support Group, Bhutan Stroke Foundation, and the Royal Society for Senior Citizens alongside Changangkha Middle Secondary School which is a Special Needs School gathered to discuss on the inclusive growth and a road map for the integration of Persons With Disabilities in socio-economic development.

Moreover, they also expressed the need to raise awareness on the emerging issues and challenges faced by the Persons With Disabilities, their parents or caregivers, families and the society at large.

“One challenge is the funding. Without reliable sources of funding, it’s very difficult to run the organisation. We need funds to do anything. The second issue is again the same human resource constraints. We need more people if we want to deliver services more effectively and right on time. And the other challenge is the recognition and acceptance by the society. Then it’s accessibility and inclusion which we are talking about,” said Kunzang Namgyal Tshering, Executive Director of Ability Bhutan Society.

“Firstly, from my own perspective, for us to have an inclusive and equitable society, I think the first support that we need is from the society. I think the acceptance from society, the acceptance of the differences and how to accept the similarities between people with and without disability should be there. And secondly, when it comes to collaboration, we have a lot of supporters in our country, but I think there is a lack of communication between them,” said Phurpa Wangchuk, a participant.

Meanwhile, organisations such as Phensem Parents Support Group which is an association of parents or primary caregivers of Persons With Disabilities share that a parent must play a significant role in helping children with disabilities.

“Your child may be born with a disability that is visible or invisible, and he or she is different, but that is not your fault, that is not the child’s fault, and neither it is the fault of your spiritual alignment or your past life, karma and all those things. It is just your child. And if the parent or the parents accept their child for who he or she is completely with their differences, then the society will also accept them because inclusion begins at home,” said Prashanti Pradhan, Co-Founder of Phensem Parents Support Group.

“In the past, we did not really know who people with disabilities were as we do not have children with disabilities. We thought it meant only those with sight and hearing problems.  But now that I have a child with disabilities and also met all kinds of people, I have come to realise that there are different types of disabilities. That’s why it’s important for parents to make sure their child fits into society,” said Chimi Om, a parent.

According to the Ability Bhutan Society, sensitising the public on the challenges of the Persons With Disabilities will help garner support from the public, government, and international organisations.

Although the latest figures are not available, the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan 2017 shows that 2.1 percent of the country’s population which is around 15,500 individuals live with some form of disabilities.

Singye Dema

Edited by Kipchu

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