Shun bias, empower disabled, says HRH

National 3 minutes, 17 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

SOCIAL stigmas and discrimination against people with disabilities remain widespread in society, prompting Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah to speak up on the issue at the 3rd ASEAN Disability Forum yesterday.

The royal advocate underscored that people with disabilities are entitled to equal civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.

“Nonetheless, we continue to see unfortunate disparities in attitudes towards persons with disabilities where social stigmas and discrimination frequently deny (their) access to basic rights, such as education, employment and health services,” she said in her sabda.

Citing findings by the World Bank, HRH Princess Sarah noted that people with disabilities are, more often than not, “among the poorest of the poor”.

She added that on average people with disabilities are poorer than those without disabilities and have lower levels of education, worse health conditions, fewer employment opportunities and higher poverty rates.

It is estimated up to four per cent of the one billion people with disabilities worldwide are experiencing significant difficulties in their daily life, according to the World Health Organisation.

HRH Princess Sarah explained that poverty and disability have proven to function together in a vicious cycle, each exacerbating the debilitating effects of the other due to poor living conditions and malnutrition as well as lack of access to health care and education.

The 3rd ASEAN Disability Forum’s theme of reducing poverty and enhancing employment prospects, she commented, is therefore timely.

She said such efforts require a comprehensive spectrum of activities and programmes, ranging from promoting and protecting basic rights to improving access to basic services, including the removal of barriers that prevent access to these services.

Focus should also be put on promoting community-based support services that address the needs of households with members with disabilities.

HRH Princess Sarah further highlighted the importance of assisting these families to ensure they have productive employment and financial independence, adding the well-being of people with disabilities needs to be monitored closely.

At the same time, they need to increase participation in private-public partnerships that encourage corporate social responsibility as well as promote social funds and safety nets.

In her sabda, she pointed out the Brunei Government is strongly committed to ensuring that matters relating to people with disabilities – who make up 1.06 per cent of the total population – are given high priority in the national agenda.

Brunei signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2007 and is currently working towards its ratification with several policies as well as programmes already in place.

Financial assistance is extended to people with disabilities under the Old Age and Disability Pensions Act 1954, while skills training and job attachment programmes are also provided in addition to home-based or community-based rehabilitation programmes.

Supportive therapy is also extended to families with members who have disabilities in order to help them better understand and to alleviate unwarranted fears about the disabilities.

HRH Princess Sarah said Brunei’s strong commitment is also reflected in the establishment of a Special Committee on Persons with Special Needs and the Elderly in 2008, leading to the formulation of a national plan to promote inclusive development in society.

Commending the setting up of the Brunei Disability Council, she said these efforts are complemented by the private sector and NGOs in the country.

She also spoke about the various strategies and programmes that ASEAN has developed to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities including the establishment of the ASEAN Disability Forum in 2011, advocating for the disability rights movement.

“Whilst we appear to have achieved much progress, more still needs to be done to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy their rights,” said HRH Princess Sarah.

The 3rd ASEAN Disability Council was hosted by Brunei at the Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong yesterday.

Scheduled to conclude today, the forum is a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and nine disabled people’s organisations.

The Brunei Times