Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) has launched the Child Advocacy Network of Disability Organisations (CAN DO) aimed at protecting and promoting the rights and well-being of children with disabilities.
“A recent study commissioned by ARC on the child protection system revealed a broad range of gaps and challenges, among which include the need for a special focus on protecting and promoting the rights and well-being of children with disabilities,” said ARC’s Executive Director Zenshya Shaheed Zaki.
The new network aims to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Maldives Disability Act, in order that “every child with disabilities in the country can live with full rights and dignity and are provided with opportunities to realize his or her full potential,” an ARC press release explained.
CAN DO will take steps to bridge the identified gaps in a number of ways, including improving access to information, raising awareness, conducting training, and enhancing early detection and intervention.
Founding members of CAN DO also include the Association for Disability and Development, Beautiful Eyes Down Syndrome Association of Maldives, Blind and Visually Impaired Association of Maldives, the Care Society, the Maldives Autism Association, Maldives Deaf Association, and the Maldives Association of Physical Disables.
Zenysha explained that CAN DO plans to strengthen the network of children’s disability charities, noting that lots of NGOs work with different types of disabilities and that CAN DO will be a good way to strengthen these collaborations and encourage a “greater focus in society into the issue of disabilities”.
“There are very few opportunities for disabled children to get education,” Zenysha stated. “It’s a huge issue that needs allot of work put in from the government.”
She went on to point out that the Maldives is lacking in specialist disability schools, citing the example of having only one school in the Maldives that specialises in blind or partially sighted education. Furthermore, in this school there is only one class – which cannot cater to the demand, she added.
As well as raising awareness of SEN schools and disabled education access, CAN DO will provide disability related training courses.
“This will create a more coordinated approach,” stated Zenysha, and create “long term opportunities” for those who take part.
According to the Human Rights Commission (HRCM), in 2009 there were 2,250 children with disabilities registered in the Maldives and of these children only 230 had access to education.
The HRCM has this week begun hearings into its National Inquiry in to Access to Education for Children with Disabilities, in Kaafu atoll. The inquiry will examine the practices, policies, and laws related to education for children with disabilities.
ARC and CAN DO are currently planning events to celebrate Children’s Day, which takes place on the 10th May.