Curator’s note: We are excited to be supporting the launch of a major new initiative this week—the Government of Mozambique’s cross-sectoral Children with Disabilities campaign. Marie-Consolée’s post today highlights some of the issues that UNICEF and its partners, with funding from the US Fund for UNICEF, are endeavouring to address.
Over the past years, I have traveled extensively on field assignments, promoting children’s rights and disseminating lifesaving messages. I spend most of my time on these trips with mothers and their children, discussing life-threatening issues and looking at what strategies are best suited for addressing the problems that they face. All the families I have met so far want a better future for their children.
A while ago though, while accompanying Magnum photographer Patrick Zachmann, on assignment with UNICEF to document the lives of children with disabilities, I had an experience that emphatically drove that message home. In preparation for the visit, I absorbed as much as I could about the situation of children with disabilities in the country.
Social scientists and social change practitioners have found the normal bell-shaped curve to be of immense value when making inferences about population parameters from sample statistics. By paying attention to the mean values and standard deviations in a normal distribution with a representative sample, one can predict — with a high degree of confidence — the odds in favor of, or stacked against, solving a problem (see Figure 1).
Children, young people, and their families have fundamental rights related to information and to participation on which their well-being and even survival depend. The Communication, Advocacy, Participation, and Partnerships (CAPP) programme works with the public, private, and citizen sectors to ensure these rights; to create an enabling and protective environment for children and their families; and to achieve behavioural and social outcomes linked to health, equality, education, and protection.
An activist of the Institute for Social Communication busy guiding attention to campaign services during a National Health Week
Angelina Neves, with her four children, queueing to register her youngest at the Quissico Health Center.
Late last year, an innovative approach to birth registration was launched during the bi-annual National Health Week in November, with the ministries of health and justice cooperating to provide birth registration services at health centers. Ordinarily, families have to travel to the district capital to register their children, an expensive and time-consuming process, which many families cannot afford to do. As a consequence many children remain unregistered in Mozambique. For the first time last year, a pilot programme supported by UNICEF, helped place officers from the Ministry of Justice at health centres to provide birth registration services to families who were in to immunize their children during National Health Week, catching two birds in one stone. While preparing the communication strategy for the health week, the decision was made not to advertise the programme too widely, as this was a pilot and service delivery would be limited in scope in this initial phase.
A recent unit of the C4D course I’m taking explored the principles of diversity and inclusion. The purpose of the unit was to increase awareness, knowledge, and skills relative to our own internalized prejudices, and to realize how these biases may inadvertently infringe on the human rights of others who may be different from us in terms of gender, ethnicity, religion, ability, etc.
Among the things we read, the paper “Disability beyond stigma: Social Interaction, Discrimination and Activism” by Michelle Fine and Adrienne Asch had the strongest impact on me because it related so well with my work at UNICEF. Fine and Asch examine the concept of disability as a social construct, arguing that “differences among disabling conditions have to be considered to understand their impact on the lives of people”. A prevailing assumption among duty bearers is that a disabled person is a “victim”. This manifestation of “ableism” in turn impedes our ability to acknowledge and affirm the range of mechanisms people with disabilities use to lead fulfilling lives. What’s more, this misconception prevents many of us from seeing that social responses to disabilities are themselves victimizing and that they contribute to the marginalization of people with disabilities. I wonder if I sometimes contribute to this erroneous view myself!
Quinzena da Criança is Mozambique’s annual fortnight dedicated to raising awareness about child rights. With impressive leadership on the part of the government (the First Lady, if not the President, and the Minister for Women and Social Action are always proactively involved), it’s a busy time for child rights advocates, and especially for UNICEF’s CAPP team. A primetime TV debate on the rights of children with disabilities (this year’s Quinzena theme) was broadcast on International Children’s Day, which marks the start of Quinzena. Produced with our partner ROSC, the Civil Society Forum for Child Rights, the debate engaged civil society representatives and others in a much needed public discussion about child rights and disabilities—about inclusion, integration, and overcoming the “invisibility” of children who bear the brunt of ability-related stigma and discrimination.
On the 17th of April 2012, I travelled to Chibuto in the province of Gaza with IKEA co-workers from Denmark to visit some of the projects supported by IKEA Foundation and implemented by UNICEF.
We visited three households. The Chief of the Social Action at the district level and social workers came along on the visits. They knew all the families living in vulnerability in the area, and explained recent cases of children abandoned upon the death of their mother and father from AIDS.
In one of family we visited, a mother of four was expelled from her house with her four children, when her husband died from Aids six years ago. She lost all she had. Her house, her belongings, her status in society and she was even abandoned by her two eldest children. I could sense fear coupled with the stigma in her eyes while chatting with her. This is sadly a very common practice in this part of the country. Available studies and data suggest that the existing patriarchal culture and male-dominated social order is strong in the country.
It is about responsibility. We adults have a responsibility to create a safe environment for all children, in which they can learn, grow and develop. We have a responsibility to ensure that Mozambican children in all provinces will have access to quality education and social services in a not too distant future.
Welcome to Which way is North (WwN) on The talk to walk to!
WwN is a dialogic blog–an ongoing recursive conversation with oneself and others. Its purpose is to narrate stories, to invite reflection, to challenge the status quo, and to provoke action.
WwN asks questions such as: What map are you using? Where does your compass point? How do you get from point A to B? Is there one preferred route? Are there roads less taken? Not taken? Why not? What will you do about it?