Launch of the campaign "It's about ability"
PODGORICA, Montenegro - 10 September, 2010 - For the next three months, the faces of children with disability will light up Montenegro. Across the country, billboards showing children with disability as active members of society – as athletes, friends, musicians, dancers, students, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters, are transmitting messages to encourage change in attitude and practice towards children with disability. Through the campaign, Montenegrin citizens are invited to recognize the potential, strength, courage and ability of children with disabilities.
TV spots and testimonials, and a major documentary on de-institutionalization will put a human face – a child’s face on the challenge of inclusion of children with disability. Special events and local initiatives with young people, schoolchildren, parliamentarians, and celebrities aim to spark grass roots activity to transform communities to welcome children with disability into people’s homes, communities and hearts, without fear or prejudice.
The campaign, “It’s About Ability” was launched in a primary school implementing inclusive education in Podgorica by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Ambassador Leopold Maurer, and UNICEF Representative, Noala Skinner on 10 September 2010.
Lazar Dragojevic, a boy with cerebral palsy, and Nadja Lausevic, his class-mate, talked about the the importance of dispelling myths and breaking down barriers. Nikola Zekic, a visually-impaired boy, who attends the Music high school “Vasa Pavic” in Podgorica, captivated the audience as he played the piano at the launch event.
In the presence of children with disability and their parents, members of the special Olympics team, Ministers Ambassadors, and representatives of NGOs and international organizations, , the launch of the campaign sent a strong message of solidarity behind the fact that children with disability have the same rights and fundamental freedoms as all children, and that is the responsibility not only of Government, but of every member of Montenegro’s society, to support their inclusion and full potential.
UNICEF research from August 2010 reveals that every second citizen thinks that children with disabilities should go to special educational institutions and that it is in their best interest to live in special institutions instead of being with their families. In contrast, fifty years of research demonstrates that children in institutions will not develop in the same way as children living in families. Child placement, in any kind of institution, should be a measure of last resort and for the shortest time possible.
UNICEF Montenegro’s Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices survey reveals:
Echoing the key messages of the campaign, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic spoke directly to the public: “I call on all citizens to support inclusion of children with disability. They have equal rights to develop to their full potential, as other children, and it is our obligation that we support them.”
He continued, “All [children with disability] are our children, children of Montenegro with equal rights and potential to participate equally in society”.
Ambassador Leopold Maurer, Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro underlined that “all of Montenegro’s children are future European citizens” and “discrimination against children with disabilities cannot be tolerated”. Reaffirming that human rights is a core value of the European Union, to which Montenegro has applied to be a member, he made the important link between the rights of children with disability and deinstitutionalization.
UNICEF Representative, Noala Skinner, referred to a range of leading figures, famous for their abilities, including Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Beethoven, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli, Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, Picasso, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Louis Braille, Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison, who could have fallen by the wayside because they were in some way disabled.
Grounding her address in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its key principles of the best interests of the child and non discrimination, she underlined that equity and inclusion benefit the whole society.
Open letter from the UNICEF Montenegro Representative
It's About Ability