President of Parliament committed to people living with disabilities

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Maria R. H. dos Santos, Director of Disability Center in Enclave Oecusse, at the meeting.

President of Parliament committed to people living with disabilities

by: Helio Miguel de Araujo
National Communications Officer
UN Women Timor-Leste

Dili: People living with disabilities have received a pledge for more inclusion from the President of Timor-Leste’s Parliament.

In a seminar held last week, 13 June, a significant step forward was taken to protect and promote the rights of people living with disabilities.

Parliamentarians, Government Members and partners came together to discuss how to better include disability in the 2020 State Budget.

President of the Parliament, His Excellency Arão Noé Amaral, re-affirmed in his opening remarks, Parliament’s commitment to the rights of people living with disabilities and pledged to study the possibility of developing a parliamentary resolution to adopt on the rights of people with disabilities.

He also said he would invite the Government to submit a proposal for ratification of ''The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.''

“Government has the obligation to protect persons with disabilities and not to exclude them from development programming and planning,” Mr Amaral said.

From left: Ms Anjet Lanting, UN Human Rights, Mr. Arão Noé Amaral, President of the Parliament, Mr. Fernando da Costa, Oxfam and 

Mr. Cesario da Silva Director of the Association of Persons with Disabilities

People living with disabilities are one of the groups most ''left behind'' in Timor-Leste. For example, seventy-two percent of people living with disabilities in Timor-Leste have not attended school (Census 2015).

Stigma, discrimination and limited availability of inclusive services are among the causes.

Timor-Leste has not yet ratified the UN Convention on the ''Rights of Persons with Disabilities.'' This has been a key aspiration and demand of people living with disabilities in Timor-Leste.

Mr. Cesario da Silva, Director of the Association of Persons with Disabilities in Timor-Leste (ADTL), has experienced and observed discrimination and violence in his community.

“The voice of persons with disabilities will be stronger if we have the support of a wide range of people, especially from those at the highest levels of the State,” Mr. de Silva said.

Several key Government Members and officials and Members of Parliament presented progress to better include persons with disabilities.

Her Excellency Signi Chandrawati Verdial, Vice-Minister of Social Solidarity and Inclusion said her Ministry is establishing a new National Directorate on Disability.

Her Excellency Maria Gorumali Barreto, President of Parliamentary ''Committee F'' of Education, Health, Social Security and Gender Equality said the committee’s door is open for people living with disabilities.

''We are keen on continuing the collaboration and to hear more about the concerns of women, men and children living with disabilities.”     

Anjet Lanting, on behalf of the United Nations team in Timor-Leste, spoke about how to include disability in legislation, policy and planning.

Ms Lanting commended Timor-Leste for recognizing inclusion as the key for sustainable development in the future.

''Including disability is the right and just thing to do.''

Ms Lanting presented data which showed how including people with disabilities has economic benefits for the country.

''Everyone can acquire a disability in their lives, so it is in everyone’s interest to work toward better inclusion, with additional responsibilities for those in position of authority to make this a reality,'' she said. 

The representative from Oxfam, one of the co-organizers of the seminar, Mr. Fernando da Costa,  acknowledged the progress that has been made by the government to date, but also urged for more work to be done. 

“These days we have seen a number of potential persons with disabilities and we must create an inclusive budget to invest in their capacity and have them also contribute to sustainable development,” Mr. Fernando said.

At the end of the seminar, many participants signed a declaration for the ''Protection and Promotion of Persons living with a Disability,'' for submission to Parliament.

The seminar was organized by Committee F and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (GMPTL), jointly with the ADTL and made possible with the support from the United Nations Partnership for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Oxfam Timor-Leste

To learn more about disability and the work of the United Nations on disability rights in Timor-Leste: