“Every child with a disability has the right to inclusion without difficulties”, emphasized Ana Kotur, lawyer and human rights activist, as a special guest at the opening session of today’s event. “For every child a fair chance” was the title of this joint event, organised by UNICEF and the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in cooperation with the Information Centre for Persons with Disabilities "Lotos" and World Vision International. Participants learned about the key recommendations from the recent Situation Analysis of the Children with Disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was commissioned by UNICEF as part of a project co-funded by the European Union. After hearing real life stories of children with disabilities, participants discussed and agreed on next steps for children with disability to achieve their full potential.
The workshop focused on the need to provide access to quality inclusive services for all children. This includes early childhood development and interventions, inclusive education, and social protection services. Another priority area is to ensure better protection of children from violence, abuse and neglect. The analysis showed that these are all the areas where children with disabilities continue to face obstacles and discrimination in different forms. All participants, including children with disabilities and their parents, representatives from government, non-governmental and international organisations agreed on concrete actions so that each child living with a disability is able to get a fair chance in life.
Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Semiha Borovac, emphasized the commitment towards reaching the highest standards in the implementation of rights for every child. “The role of the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees is not only reporting to international bodies, but also continuous monitoring of the situation of children rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and advocating for further improvement”, stressed Minister Borovac.
UNICEF Representative Geeta Narayan emphasized the importance of social inclusion for the whole society. “Social inclusion - ensuring all children have equal access to schools, health services, social welfare, etc. - has benefits both for children with and without disabilities. Through social inclusion children learn to be more compassionate and open-minded about differences. We have to mobilise everyone – children, parents, civil society, government actors, decision-makers and everybody else, in order to realise the rights of every child in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said UNICEF Representative Geeta Narayan.
The Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina Melvin Asin stressed the EU commitment in improving the situation of children with different abilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “I am confident that the findings and recommendations from the Situation Analysis of Children with Disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, produced by this project, will be one step further in ensuring the rights of the children with different abilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A systematic solution for ensuring an equal access to health services and education to children with different abilities should be introduced throughout the country. Also, it is vital for the benefit of the child and the parents to timely receive the right type of assistance - it is our duty to help them”, said Asin.
“Children with disabilities need comprehensive and flexible support to ensure equal participation in society just like other children. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, at policy level, significant progress was achieved, but children with disabilities still face significant obstacles in accessing quality services on an everyday basis”, said Suvad Zahirović, Director of the Information Centre for Persons with Disabilities “Lotos” from Tuzla.
“Ensuring that voices of children with disabilities, their parents and advocates are heard, should enhance understanding and appreciation of the obstacles they face, reduce stigma and prejudice and contribute to enhancing quality of life of this vulnerable group. Involvement and strong collaboration of all relevant actors in ensuring that all children in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially the most vulnerable ones, get a fair chance, are adequately protected, are recognised for and encouraged to participate based on their invaluable abilities should be a joint mission of every person in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, noted Dragana Bulić, Influence and External Positioning Director of World Vision Western Balkan.
In April 2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina received a set of recommendations based on its Report submitted in 2016 to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, the latest analyses, as conducted by UNICEF and World Vision International, confirmed the alarming status of children with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have adopted strategies for the improvement of rights and status of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, children with disabilities and their families still face discrimination, their rights are often not fully met, and they still face limited access to basic services, including non-inclusive education. UNICEF is currently implementing a project that includes several countries, funded by the EU, in order to protect children from violence and to improve the social inclusion of children with disabilities in the Western Balkans. In cooperation with the European Disability Forum (EDF), the Information Centre for Persons with Disabilities “Lotos” from Tuzla, as well as with organisations of persons with disabilities and Associations of Parents, the intention is to streamline unified advocacy efforts of Disability Persons Organisations to improve the rights of children with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.