Campaign promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities yields positive results in Montenegro

By Jelena Perovic

PODGORICA, Montenegro, 15 December, 2011 – This week, Montenegro’s Prime Minister Igor Luksic and UNICEF Representative Benjamin Perks unveiled the impact of a groundbreaking campaign promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities into society.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Momir Krivacevic reports on a groundbreaking campaign to include children with disabilities into society.

‘It’s About Ability’, launched in September 2010 by the Prime Minister, the Head of the EU Delegation and UNICEF, has  aimed to give a human face – a child’s face – to inclusion. 

"Through the ‘It’s About Ability’ campaign and with parents and other members of society, we have created a social family for children with disabilities,” Prime Minister Igor Luksic said at a packed National Theatre where the result of a post campaign survey was presented. “The results and the continuity of the campaign make me personally very happy because we will further create new opportunities for the full inclusion of children with disabilities into our society.‘’

Changing behaviour

The children's involvement and partnerships with over 100 national and international organizations made it possible to overcome obstacles and change mindsets. A survey of knowledge, attitudes and practices conducted in November 2011 assessed the impact of the campaign and the results were promising.

© UNICEF/ Montenegro/ 2011/ Dusko Miljanic
Prime Minister Igor Luksic with parents and children with disabilities.

According to the survey, one in four citizens has positively changed their behaviour towards children with disabilities in 2011 as a result of the campaign. Citizens also expressed that they now communicate more easily with children and persons with disabilities.

In addition, the percentage of citizens who consider children with disabilities to be equally valuable members of society has increased by almost 18 per cent since the campaign was launched. There has also been a consistent increase in the number of citizens who would accept that children with and without disabilities live in the same city or street, share the same classroom, play together or even become best friends.

Vital members of society

A 17-year-old student from the Institute for Education and Rehabilitation of Children with Disability, Nevena Kovacevic, was the moderator of the special event at the National Theatre and welcomed the guests on behalf of all Montenegrin children.

Ballet students and children with disabilities dance together to the song 'It’s About Ability'. A chorus of children with speech and hearing impairments perform the verses in sign language.

“This is the first time for me to be a moderator of a special event like this one,” she said afterwards. “I printed out all the notes in Braille so that I can read them in case I forget what I was going to say, but it all went really well and it felt great.”

UNICEF Representative Benjamin Perks underscored the importance of linking the campaign with reform of the child welfare system, inclusive education, and action from local government and civil society organizations. He highlighted examples of expanding inclusive classes in primary and secondary schools, social work interventions to support families, and a day care centre for children with disabilities, primarily for those who can not go to mainstream schools, in the Northern Montenegrin Municipality of Pljevlja.

“It can be a powerful, powerful tool for changing a situation of children with disability in our society,’’ Mr. Perks said. ‘’What you can see is the increase of the life cycle of the ‘It’s About Ability’ campaign, a nine-fold increase in the number of a parents bringing children forward for inclusive education from 2010 compared to previous years.’’

UNICEF Representative in Montenegro Benjamin Perks speaks to children with disabilities during a photography exhibition.

Opportunity for all children

A song titled ‘It’s About Ability’, composed by UNICEF National Ambassador of Montenegro Rambo Amadeus, was launched at the occasion. Ballet students and children with disabilities danced together to the song, while a chorus of children with speech and hearing impairments performed the verses in sign language.

People also viewed a photography exhibit of prominent young athletes with disabilities from the Special Olympics and Paralympics, and were able to meet to them at event.

The campaign will continue in 2012 in conjunction with child welfare and education sector reform. The goal is to give all children an opportunity to develop and reach their full potential in a more equitable Montenegro.

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