Greater inclusion for children with disabilities
Most initiatives for children with disabilities are specialised and separate
Disability is a major social and economic phenomenon in Bangladesh. However, there is lack of reliable and comprehensive data available on persons with disabilities. Different data sources show different pictures on disability in Bangladesh. According to Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2010, disability prevalence in total population is 9.1 per cent, while 2011 National Census found only 1.7 per cent prevalence.
In Bangladesh, there is a growing realization that the main constraint faced by children with disabilities is not the child’s impairment, but widespread prejudice and discrimination.
Discrimination in the family, the community and the workplace is at the core of most violations of the rights of children with disabilities in Bangladesh. The belief that disability is a curse and a punishment for sinful behaviour permeates all levels of society and affects access to adequate care, health, nutrition, education and participation.
Children with disabilities are least likely to receive healthcare or go to school. They are among the most vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect, particularly if they are hidden or put in institutions. Gender is also a key factor, as girls with disabilities are less likely than boys to receive food and care.
According to the Situation Analysis on Children with Disabilities (2014), children with disabilities in Bangladesh are clearly among the most marginalized when it comes to education. Primary school enrolment rate in Bangladesh is 97 per cent while only 11 per cent of children with disabilities received any form of education.
Most initiatives for children with disabilities are specialised and separate rather than addressed within mainstream programmes and services.
For many children with disabilities, exclusion begins in the first days of life with their birth going unregistered. Lacking official recognition, they are cut off from social services and legal protections.
While progress is slow, changes have been noted due to policy modifications and social mobilisation. For children with disabilities, this includes increased access to school and to opportunities for skills development and employment.
Notable progress has also been made towards improving protection legislation, systems and services for children in Bangladesh.
A National Coordination Committee on Disability established under the Ministry of Social Welfare in 1993, led to the adoption of the first National Disability Policy in 1995. Since then, the legal framework is progressively being harmonized with international standards.
The country has also taken a number of legislative and policy actions towards nationalizing global commitments, including the Children Policy, adopted in 2011; the Children Act 2013, and the Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act 2013.
Bangladesh is among the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and the Optional Protocol in 2008. The CRPD compels states to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities, including children and adolescents.
The CRPD lays the foundation for Bangladesh to undertake a fundamental review of the situation of children with disabilities and to take specific steps to promote their inclusion in society.
To ensure that children living with disability have equal access to their rights, UNICEF believes that its work on disability will be successful only if UNICEF itself is a more inclusive organization.
UNICEF’s Strategic Framework for Partnerships and Collaborative Relationships was developed in 2013 to facilitate engagement with the disability community and UNICEF is also part of the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities that has developed a Guidance for Establishing a National Partnership on Children with Disabilities.
UNICEF advocates for mainstreaming approaches and incorporates attention to disability-related issues across the lifecycle by ensuring programmes are gender, age, and child-sensitive and take into consideration, their disability-specific needs and capacities.
In humanitarian situations, children with disabilities and their families are particularly vulnerable and UNICEF’s Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs) outlines the organizational commitment to deliver a set of humanitarian assistance for all children regardless of their status.
The overall goal of UNICEF Bangladesh in addressing disability is to ensure that by 2020, the rights to survival, development, participation and protection of children with disabilities, especially those most disadvantaged, are promoted and are progressing towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2030.
Backed by evidence, UNICEF Bangladesh aspires to be the rallying point for promoting advocacy on inclusion of children and adolescents with disabilities throughout the country and ensure timely contribution to the CRPD implementation and monitoring.
To remove the stigma and prejudice with the goal of real social inclusion, there is strong need to develop instrumental behavioural and social change strategies under the sectoral programme.
UNICEF will work with governments, private sector and donors to mobilise the required resources for the implementation of disability related activities in the country. The office will develop plans to mobilise funds to support holistic life-cycle based response to enhance the resilience of children living with disabilities and their families in the country.