“Come join us and celebrate the holiday with a group of people like you, are advocating for the rights of people with disability” Art called me days after the New Year.
For some unforeseen reasons I was not able to meet this group of interesting people and break bread with them. Until a couple of weeks ago.
Art kept on inviting me to meetings and when I can I join them , I was introduced to the group called MABINI (an acronym of a long name in Tagalog). The acronym is the surname of the Great Paralytic – one of our national hero Apolinario Mabini, the thinker during the time of the revolution against the Spanish invasion but he cannot walk, he has to be carried in a hammock all the time they are escaping because of Polio.
He inspired a lot of thinker in the country just like the group behind the project called ‘Project Harmony’.
For a long time there has been debate on how the poorest of the poor sector – disability, can access government support with less challenge as it is now.
Philippines was first to have it’s disability law. Many laws in Asia were patterned on what we had, the Republic Act 7277 but if you ask me how it is implemented that remains to be seen because the provisions of the law have not been weaved in the systems of the government. All are talks without so much to show for it.
I don’t say nothing has been done, there are many development. Progress has been recorded but it’s not enough. Like I said its not weaved in therefore whoever sit next systems gets changed or forgotten. That is why the struggle of the disability sector in the Philippines is still a long tedious struggle with no light at the end of a very long tunnel yet. More needs to be done.
That is why when I fully understood what Project Harmony is I have to say I am impressed with this MABINI group for thinking out of the box and do something impressive — it trying to marry two institution in the region where I live.
The Department of Social Welfare is supposed to take care of the marginalized sector but the institution is full of “old stubborn people” literally and figuratively that they lose track that life changes outside the four corners of the their room. The people I met so far are so “ancient” thinking —
- they still believe that without them people with disability cannot do anything,
- some maybe thinking they are still a group of people who needs charity and
None of them fully understood what disability is even if the woman in charge of training kept telling me there are curriculum and materials made for the department blah! blah!
It pains me to think that in my country the mentality of people are so “antiquated” when it comes to disability. No wonder, only few are given opportunity and a whole bunch more are hidden. The country only had 1.23 percent disabled from last census in 2010 compared to the global standard of 15 percent according to WHO. And to think that in a population of 100 million Filipino, 1.23 percent is very small compared to other Asian country and yet we cannot give “decency” for them to uplift their standard of living and status in the society.
Anyway, going back to Project Harmony. I met a dentist in wheelchair, she’s Dr. Jeanna and she’s a very good advocate. She made progress in her own community but like many organization, hers took over 4 years to get noticed and be given what is due to them (with much reservations). With the other members, they are trying to get DSWD in our region to work together by being transparent and by setting examples on how negotiations and working together should be done.
The regional DSWD is cooperating, thank God for good people in government services. And MABINI group is trying hard to get the people with disability in region 4A get in line and work together to show the partners that the disability sector indeed does not need charity but rather an opportunity like everyone on earth deserve.
If the government and other institution said they will help change the lives of people with disability, make sure that they do it together with them because believe me these are very capable people, better than me and maybe even better than you.
As I always say and I really believe in the matra that “Nothing About Us Without Us” is the way to go towards making true development happen in the disability sector and beyond.
I am glad I finally met the people behind the Project Harmony. These people who compose the MABINI group, they are laudable because in spite of the challenge they never lose hope that eventually the system will work in their favor.
And who are we to doubt them and help.
This post appeared at World Pulse Community