Young Voices National Meeting in the Philippines

The Leonard Cheshire Disability Philippines Foundation (LCDPF)- Young Voices (YV) conducted its first National Meeting from August 27-29, 2011, at Bahay Biyaya Cheshire Student Hostel, a dormitory for college students with physical disabilities, located in Cubao, Quezon City.

The various leaders and members of the three (3) YV chapters, namely Manila, Cavite, and Iloilo, gathered together to plan their next project activities, in line with the theme: “Meaningful Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.
YV, is a global project of Leonard Cheshire Disability which campaigns for full human rights for persons with disabilities (PWDs), as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UNCRPD is an international human rights agreement which calls for every country to ensure that PWDs have the same opportunities as everybody else.

Mr. Lauro Purcil, Lead Convenor of Phil. Coalition on CRPD and Education Program Specialist- I on Special Education of the Department of Education(Dep Ed) spoke about the PWD sector’s engagement in the UN CRPD AND Young Voices’ role in preparing the parallel report.

He said that disability rights are rights which are inherent, and not “privileges” granted by the government. He stressed that the UNCRPD recognizes and declares respect for youth with disabilities’ “evolving capacity” and their “right to self-identity.”
He also reported that sometime in October, there could possibly be a translation into Tagalog of the UNCRPD.
For his part, Mr. Mateo Lee, Officer-in-Charge of the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) and former member of the Technical Working Committee which drafted Republic Act # 7277, which is otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities”, advised the young people that “it is best to do one’s advocacy in a positive way”, and to generate, not alienate support, by not being perceived to be “anti-government.”

Mr.Richard D. Arceño, LCDPF National Coordinator, discussed SWOT analysis, a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project, which could prove to be helpful to YV in preparing their activities for the next two (2) to three (3) years., and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve their goals and objectives.

Arceño also stressed that goals and objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based goals (S.M.A.R.T.).
Ms. Mary Grace Cabrera, former YV member and LCDPF Admin. Staff, shared her experiences as former representative to the United States in 2005, and Ms. Virgie Rabino, LCDPF- YV National Facilitator, talked about her experiences during the Biennial General Meeting in Singapore.

Ms. Irene Latag, YV Manila Secretary, reported about YV’s participation in the World Youth Alliance’s leadership training seminar, in which they were the only young persons with disabilities involved.
For her part, Ms. Helen Mae Noble, YV Iloilo Secretary, was chosen as delegate during the ADPI Leadership Training Seminar in Iloilo. Mr. Argie Ergina, of YV Manila, represented YV Philippines in the UN in 2008.

The following day, August 28, LCDPF Board of Directors’ Mr. Alex Babst talked on “Involvement of Learning Disability in the Advocacy of the UN CRPD”.

He noted that as far as the UN CRPD was concerned, “the most neglected among the PWDs are those with intellectual disabilities.” He also cited World Health Organization (WHO) statistics which said that “10% of the total population comprises of PWDs”, and added that : “3% of those PWDs are those with intellectual disabilities.”
Furthermore, he reminded YV leaders and members alike that, “Nobody is going to provide you guys with jobs….. (If) you don’t work for your rights, nobody else will.”
He sadly observed that “There is a lot of difference between pity and love 99% of the society pities you.”

Capt. Oscar Taleon (ret.), who is presently the chairman of the Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy (AKAP-PINOY) stressed that raising public awareness about disability as a human rights issue was the first step towards changing society’s discriminatory attitudes towards PWDs.

Since 1988, AKAP-PINOY has been engaged in the process of getting a PWD sectoral representative in Congress.

Ms. Gem Tanyag, former YV representative to South Africa, recalled how she was selected as one of the 20 delegates from different parts of the world and how she was told “Philippines is one of the most active members of YV.”

Ms. Myra Fonte, YV Cavite member, shared her experiences during the 12th International Year of the Youth celebrations. She observed that PWD concerns are not included in the Millenium Development Goals, which are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development.

On the last day of the program planning, LCDPF Board of Directors’ Mr. Emmanuel Penson observed that seventeen years ago, when he started his involvement with PWD issues, accessibility has been the major concern raised by PWDs. Until now, while other countries are already focused on disability empowerment, accessibility remains the major concern of Filipino PWDs
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He also remarked that the leaders of the Philippine Disability Movement seventeen years ago are still the same leaders today, meaning that there has been no transition into a new leadership , one which is made up of youth with disabilities.