Get-hooked April 16, 2020
Finding the right advocacy tools to push for RPWD Act implementation is focus of the 1st Know Your Rights Webinar Series
The Know Your Rights Webinar Series organised by the Javed Abidi Foundation, Disability Rights India Foundation and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative saw a good attendance of people, disabled and non-disabled, from across India. The first webinar last week took stock of crucial turning points in the disability rights movement in India and future steps. The webinars will be held every Friday and NewzHook is a media partner in the event.
What happens when disabled people are left out of critical mainstream conversations? The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the dangers of this exclusion like never before, as Tapas Bharadwaj, a blind law student and panelist emphasised at the first Know Your Rights Webinar Series.
“There was a nationwide lockdown imposed on 24 March, but guidelines for the support of persons with disabilities were only released on 27 March in an inaccessible format. This is what happens when we are spoken about without being involved in the conversation”, pointed out Tapas.
Involving disabled people in mainstream conversations
The topic was Taking Stock of Disability Rights Advocacy in India & Steps Ahead. While he may not have been physically present, the spirit of the late disability rights leader Javed Abidi was felt deeply by all those present. Mr Abidi, who passed away suddenly in March 2018, was the key architect of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016. Ninety people attended the session, mostly college students and young professionals, an encouraging sign as it is this next gen that will push for change.
Calling the RPWD Act, a great law, if not the perfect one, Rama Krishnamachari, of the Disability Rights India Foundation and Diversity and Equal Opportunity Centre, said, “It provides all rights to all people with disabilities. There is a strong provision for non-discrimination on grounds of disability, and timelines have been provided for accessibility. This law has the potential to change lives if implemented well”.
Pushing for momentum in disability rights
Yet, as Rama reminded the audience the disability rights movement in India has slowed down. The webinar series aims to push the momentum by involving young people, disabled and non-disabled, to take up inclusion in a big way and push for the effective implementation of the RPWD Act
“In 2016, central, state, and district level committees were formed with the goal of working closely with the disabled community”, says Tapas. However, this is not being achieved. “In 1995, Mr Abidi used the statement ‘Nothing about us without us’ and this statement enables us to fight for our own rights and unites us with other marginalised groups. When we fight for ourselves, we will be uplifting everyone in the community”.
Venkatesh Nayak, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, talked to the audience about the methods one can use to ensure that the Act is implemented.
Start collecting information from government files, records, and data using the Right to Information Act. Most of the time, government officials don’t have any proof of what is being done. This is even more shocking when the programme has stipulated deadlines, and those deadlines are being missed. In order to ensure that this doesn’t keep happening, RTI becomes the mechanism to say that implementation has not been good in these areas, and these are the things that need to be done. – Venkatesh Nayak, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Push the momentum with the right tools
Seek out elected representatives and push them to raise questions in the next Parliament session. Another area of advocacy is through the nodal department for implementing the RPWD Act, points out Venkatesh. Some of the other advocacy tools are courts and the media. “We need to continue to access information about what the government is doing and point out what could improve. The idea is to criticise where necessary and engage where possible”, adds Venkatesh.
Shameer Rishad, Convenor, Javed Abidi Foundation,, who conceived of the webinars, says his late uncle Javed Abidi believed in information-sharing and that is exactly what he is seeking to achieve in this uncertain time. “Whoever participates will benefit from the series but even if it motivates a few people to come forward and get more involved in advocacy efforts, the series would have achieved its purpose”.
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