- Committees not functioning
- Coordination gap a big challenges to implement disability rights
- Fund crisis another major challenge
A lack of coordination among disability rights and protection committees at upazila, district and national levels are making them ineffective and, therefore, the rights and protection of the persons with impairments are not being implemented, speakers said on Tuesday.
They attributed a coordination gap among the rights committees and inadequate budget to the non-implementation of rights of those with disabilities.
The speakers said this at a virtual discussion titled "The Roles of Disability Rights and Protection Committees, Effectiveness and Challenge: Way forward" organised jointly by ADD International Bangladesh, The Business Standard and Daily Samakal.
Although there is an obligation to form a committee, it is not being complied with in all the upazilas, observed the speakers.
Ghulam Faruq Hamim, head of programme, ADD International Bangladesh, presented the keynote paper at the event.
He said: "According to the law, there must have committees on behalf of the government to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. These include the National Coordinating Committee, the National Executive Committee, the District Committee and the Upazila/City Committee. "
However, discussions at district or upazila level meetings are much more focused on the daily needs of people with impairments, he added.
In many cases, these meetings do not have the opportunity to make any observations or discussions or review the progress in ensuring the overall social rights of the persons with impairments, said the keynote speaker.
Highlighting the challenges facing the committees, Ghulam Faruq said there are limitations in coordination and supervision between the national level committees and the district and upazila level committees.
In her address, Ashrafunnahar Misti, executive director, Women with Disabilities Development foundation, said, "We could not hold accountable the officials concerned tasked with ensuring the rights of those people with different kinds of impairments. There is doubt whether once a year, the committees hold any meeting."
"Around seven years have passed after the Disability Protection Law had been formulated, but we are not getting any reports from those rights committees," she added.
Md Shafiqul Islam, country director, ADD International Bangladesh, called for steps to make the committees more effective. "The rights of those with impairments have to be ensured in overall development process that leads to an inclusive society," he said.
Amaia Zabala, Team Leader-Governance of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, said the exclusion of those with disability in fact affects the whole community since the course of excluding people taking part in the society leads to a loss in human potentials.
She called for coordination among the committees at the national and local levels and follow-up meetings.
However, Shibani Bhattacharya, additional secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare, said, "All the disability rights committees and meetings are determined by the law. So, there is no way to avoid such meetings."
She commented that lack of budget cannot be a cause of shying away regular responsibility.
"There is lack of manpower and financial capacity of the National Foundation for Development of the Disabled Person. So, it can't play an effective role as a coordinating organisation," said Khandakar Jahurul Alam, executive director, Centre for Services and Information on Disability.
The speakers further said there is a fund crisis for holding meetings at the district/upazila level and so the department concerned sometimes has to outsource fund.
The main article outlines a number of recommendations including holding regular committee meetings and playing a more active role in implementing national action plans at local level.
Mustafiz Shafi, acting editor of the Daily Samakal, moderated the event.
Among others, Nasima Akhter, president, National Council of Disabled Women, Sushanto Kumar Das, president, National Grassroots Disability Organisation, Nazrana Yesmin Hira of Manusher Jonno Foundation, Abu Sayed Md Kawser Rahman, deputy director, District Social Welfare Office, Bogura, Md Nurul islam, social services officer, Bogura, Shila Rani Das, deputy director, District Social Services Office, Patuakhali, Md Oliul Islam, opazila social services officer, Galachipa were present at the discussion.
Since 2018, ADD International Bangladesh, in collaboration with the European Union, has been implementing a project for persons with disabilities in Patuakhali, Bogura and Rangpur districts either directly and through national level networking organisations.