"Still, whatever the situation,
it is up to us and our horizons to accept it and deal with it!
We are the ones to decide what the course of our lives will be.
I am who I am – an ordinary young girl
trying not to create barriers for myself.
Now I'm wondering ... can you break yours?!"
Elena, 24, from Varna
5 November 2019, Sofia – UNICEF Bulgaria is launching a national awareness and advocacy campaign dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in support of the inclusion and empowerment of children, adolescents and young people with different abilities in Bulgaria.
Thirty years ago, world leaders made a historic commitment to children around the world by adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, approved by the UN General Assembly in December 2006, further reinforces the rights of children with disabilities and introduces new obligations on the states to remove the barriers that limit their participation in all relevant domains of life.
Bulgaria has ratified both conventions. Over the last decade, the country has taken important steps for the inclusion of children, adolescents and young people with disabilities. However, despite the efforts at national level, children with disabilities remain one of the most excluded and invisible groups in society.
Why this campaign?
To raise the awareness, understanding and sensitivity concerning the rights of children, adolescents and young people with disabilities. We want to hear their voices and to empower them by making them the centre of this campaign. We start with Elena from Varna, Maria from Vratsa, and in the course of the campaign, with the support of our media partners, we will tell over 15 inspiring stories of children, adolescents and young people with different abilities.
The campaign will be implemented in partnership with: the Bulgarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (BAPID); Jamba; the Regional Centre for Inclusive Education – Sofia; Zakrilnitsi Association; United Nations Global Compact Network Bulgaria, Bulgarian Down Syndrome Association; Special Olympics Bulgaria; Karin Dom Foundation; Reach for Change Foundation, Maria’s World Foundation.
Media partners of “With eyes open for all” are Nova Broadcasting Group, Netinfo, the Bulgarian National Television and Dnevnik daily
On 20 November, UNICEF and BAPID will also organise a national forum with adolescents and young people with disabilities.
Globally - it is estimated that around 15% of the population live with disability. 5.1% of the children (or 95 million) have disability, of whom 13 million (0.7%) have severe disability. These are only indicative estimate because the definitions of disability applied across the countries differ and not all countries collect reliable data.
Bulgaria - Though there is no complete data on the actual number of children with disabilities in the country. The estimated number is about 32,000.
The country is a signatory to both CRC and CRPD and has established several legal and institutional arrangements to protect the rights of children with disabilities. Over the past decade the country has undertaken important steps toward ensuring inclusion of children with disabilities: all residential institutions for children with disabilities and half of the infant homes have been closed leading to a significant reduction of the number of children in residential care - from 7,587 in 2010 to 633 at the end of 2018  .
The Pre-school and School Education Act adopted at the end of 2015, established conditions for inclusion of children with disabilities in the mainstream educational system. During the 2018-2019 academic year almost 22,035 children with disabilities and special needs attended mainstream schools and kindergartens. In addition, the recently adopted Law on Social Services, Law on People with Disabilities, as well as the Law on Family Benefits for Children amendments further expanded the support and services provided to children with disabilities and their families.
However, despite the national efforts children with disabilities continue to be one of the most excluded and invisible groups in the society. They are at greater risk of separation from their biological families, they are more likely to live in institutional care or to remain outside the mainstream schools and kindergartens. For example, data shows that in 2018 approx. 90% of all children in infant homes (0-3 years for age) and 50% of the children in family type residential facilities were children with disabilities. Around 10,000 is the estimated number of children with disabilities who are out of school. Data also shows that many of the young people with disabilities aged 15-24 are not in employment, education or training.
 WHO and the World Bank, 2011. World Report on Disability. WHO, Geneva: http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf
 Data of the Agency for Social Assistance on the number of children with a level of disability over 50% whose families have received financial support under the Integration of People with Disabilities Act and its Implementing Regulations, as well as data of the National Centre of Public Health and Analyses on the number children with a level of disability less than 50 %
 Agency for Social Assistance
 Report of the Ministry of Health, 2017