Workshop on inclusivity for persons with disability ends on high note

Left-right) Susan, Francis, Claude, Janice and Silas join the workshop in singing the happy birthday song in the sign language for Janice, whose birthday fell on Friday
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A workshop looking at ways to enhance inclusivity for persons with disability has ended in Honiara on a “high note”.

A thrilled Mr Casper Faasala summed up this milestone event with this idiom because of the achievements made during the course of the four days and the promising pathways paved going forward with the aim to make Solomon Islands a more inclusive home for the persons with disability (PWD) community.

.   Lead facilitator Ms Naomi Tai (left) and participants. Ms Ellena (right) and Grace Hilly of Strongim Bisnis (back turned).

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare failing to turn up and open the workshop on Tuesday did not dampen spirits, rather strengthened resolves to speak up, share and learn, network and improve, all for a greater inclusivity for the PWD.

Faasala, Manager of PWDSI (Persons With Disability of Solomon Islands), in closing the workshop on Friday said he would prefer calling it an adjournment, hinting at the need and prospects of more dialogues to come.

He adds that the workshop’s end signals the start of participants going forth and spreading the word on concepts and contexts learnt.

Casper concluding the workshop with remarks

Rashmi Chary of UNDP, in her remarks, concurs with this, reminding stakeholders including media: “We’ll keep this conversation going because from the four days we’ve spent together, we’ve built our confidence to talk openly with one another. And, we’ll just keep going because there are plenty resources.

“The most powerful [resource] is hearing the lived experiences from this community [persons with disability]. That has been a privilege.

“It is important that social inclusion is not just a box-ticking exercise or bringing people together and that’s it. Since the inception we have to be including everyone. Now it’s also not just about walking the talk, but also actioning the promises.

“During the workshop, a lot of things have been gained. And the conversations will continue as friendships and networks strengthen over time, that is important.”

Ms Jemina captivates the workshop with her beautiful voice and message in song.

Ms Naomi Tai, workshop lead facilitator, who is living with disability and has been a community worker since 2009, shares that the highlight for her is the workshop providing a space in which nearly 30 persons with disability came face-to-face with stakeholders such as media, UNDP, Ministry of women (MWYCFA), Ministry of health (MHMS), Parliament, Strongim Bisnis, civil society organisations via Development Services Exchange (DSE), and Ministry of Justice.

“Through this space the PWD community representatives can share their lived experiences and convey their preferences to help the society become more inclusive.

Visually impaired group in discussion

“We are not stopping here. Let’s add on to what we’ve built here. Let the fruits of our discussions help in making our country a more inclusive one for persons with disability.”

The workshop was capped off with a presentation on covid-19 by Dr Divinal Ogaoga, chair of the Technical Working Group for MHMS.

Ogaoga made simple what covid-19 is, how it is spreads, covid variants, measures to help avoid getting it, covid-19 vaccination and why it is important that we get vaccinated.

He also quelled concerns and fears expressed through questions in the Q&A segment.

Following Ogaoga’s talk, it was agreed that an arrangement be done to get participants with disability, including others not present at the workshop, vaccinated.

The objectives of the workshop include:

-Collate approaches, practices and tools applied by the PSO and the broader justice sector within the context of PWDs.

– Reflect on the participation and perspectives of PWDs, drawing from their direct experiences with the justice system.

– Design information dissemination tools and products that are closely linked with PWDs experience with the justice sector and with their vision for full participation.

– Share experiences of different actors in developing approaches, practices and tools to support PWDs, for potential use by the project and the broader justice sector.

In a post-interview, Ms Tai (PWDSI) says the workshop has achieved its objectives and more.

(Left-right) UNDP’s Jone chatting with MHMS’s Dian and PWDSI’s Casper

“Adding on to the objectives, participants with disability have made new friends and networks, media publicity have boosted the reach messages relayed in the workshop get throughout the country, and even overseas.”

Faasala, in his remarks conveyed to the workshop that issues raised have reached parliament level. Earlier that day he had had an audience with the parliament’s Bills and Legislations Committee (BLC).

“I informed the BLC, I made mention this workshop to them, that this workshop is about communication and outreach when I went before them regarding the public health bill they are sitting over.

“I brought our collective message to the BLC. I hope it is taken onboard including some of the suggestions I gave them.

“The BLC is interested in knowing more about the PWD community. BLC asked how many PWD we have in the country. And, this question implies that none of the politicians want to know the contents in CENSUS Report.

“I will submit a detailed data report to BLC on Monday [tomorrow].”

Faasala also announced that WHO (World Health Organisation) will launch a framework called ‘Action the Promises’.

He explains that this framework is important to furthering the cause of the PWD community as it may result in the fulfillment of the many promises that government had given to the PWD community.

(Left-right) Interpreter Stella Damutalau discussing with Francis, Janice, Susan, Claude, Silas, Eric and Jack (back turned).

On reflection, Ms Tai tells Island Sun that having worked with the PWD community for more than a decade, she has seen progress, “although slow, it’s progress nonetheless”.

“But, this workshop, for me, it is an actual boost, especially with the interaction with stakeholders and the media publicity of the workshop and the collective messages raised here.”

The workshop was run by the UNDP in partnership with PWDSI and Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs through the Public Solicitor’s Office.