Promoting self-advocacy and family-advocacy in Myanmar
Unity, the first self-advocacy group in Myanmar, was born in February 2010, with the support from Asia Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), Family Support Network and Department of Social Welfare. Inclusion International and Inclusion Japan have been a partner in this development.
In July, our Council member, Nagase Osamu, visited Yangon (Rangoon) to see the activities of Unity, meeting leaders of Unity, including Mr. Min Swe Htet (leader) and Mr. Kaung Htet Naing (sub-leader), as well as major supporters such as Ms.Daw Yi Mar Tin, principal of School of Disabled Children, and Mr. Salai Vanni Bawi, a support person. The visit also included meeting with Mr. Kyaw Htut, the former president of Family Support Network, which took the initiative for the founding of Unity.
Major activities of Unity currently includes coffee shop within the School of Disabled Children as well silk skin screen printing and art mirror production. The Unity members, most from the School of Disabled Children, wish to develop their activities beyond the School and find market for their products.
On 13 July, APCD and JICA organized a workshop among self-advocacy groups in Bangkok, Thailand. It was attended by Unity, Daoru Ang from Thailand, and Rose from Cambodia. They identified their common challenges as limited financial support, limited technical support, limited capacity of supporters, limited participation from family members, lack of coordinating knowledge and experience with persons with intellectual disabilities, technique of marketing of projects, and limited ownership. Certainly these seem to apply to Unity.
The visit was also a good opportunity to identify issues of implementation of the CRPD in Myanmar, which signed it December 2011. One is the fact that the education of children with disabilities comes under the Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. The transfer to education of children with disabilities to the Ministry of Education is need for inclusive education as required by CRPD.