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Living in Myanmar

Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI) is one of AGENDA partners in ASEAN. Mr. Nay Lin Soe is the founder and program director of the Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI), an organization for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Myanmar. In this short video, Mr. Nay Lin Soe briefly describes and shares his personal experience living in Myanmar as a person with disability.

Election Access Monitoring Report Spurs Conversations in Kosovo

MEOs are led through a simulation of an inaccessible polling station during one of the workshops held in October 2014

MEOs are led through a simulation of an inaccessible polling station during one of the workshops held in October 2014

There are an estimated 200,000 persons with disabilities living in Kosovo, many of whom encounter numerous obstacles such as inaccessible polling stations and transport options when trying to exercise their right to vote.

To fully identify and understand the barriers to elections for persons with disabilities, the Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI) and a disabled person’s organization named HandiKOS partnered with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to develop a short- and long-term election monitoring program for Kosovo’s National Assembly elections held in June 2014.

For the program, known as the Disability Access Monitoring Mission (DAMM), both KDI and HandiKOS recruited 230 persons with disabilities (of whom 37% were women) as either short- or long-term observers in all stages of the electoral process, including election planning, the dissemination of electoral and political information, campaigns by political parties, and voting on Election Day.

The first DAMM report was released in in three languages and braille. One of its major findings noted that, although Kosovo had laws that supported the political rights of persons with disabilities, there were large gaps in the implementation of these laws throughout the country.

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Standing Tall Amid Adversity

Josephine de VeraWhen Josephine de Vera, or Josie, was six months old, she got a high fever. Her parents took her to the hospital for medication, where the doctor told them she had polio. Josie and her family looked for better treatment, but due to financial difficulties and the distance to medical centers, they finally had to stop seeking new and better medication.

Josie went through therapy every day with the hope that she would recover. When she was 3 years old, she learned how to walk without using any assistive device. She also entered a private school.

She was enrolled by her parents in a private school. But since other children noticed that she got disability, she was labeled.

“Especially as a teenager I used to cry because I could not join some outdoor activities in the school like other students did,” she said. “I said to myself that it’s really hard and painful to live with disability, but I realized that no one can help me except myself if I used to hide my disability and feel self-pity.”

Josie finished her university studies, where she was actively involved in community organizations. Because of her involvement, she was elected as President of Kalipunan ng Liping Pilipina (KALIPI), the grassroots women organization (non-disabled women) in the Dagupan City, where the Federation of Women with Disabilities is affiliated.

She became more involved in disability rights issues. In her role as President, she assist in establishing Stimulation and Therapeutic Activity Center (STAC) which caters children with disabilities 0-14 years old in their city. She was asked to build a therapy center for children with disabilities: the Stimulation and Therapeutic Activity Center (STAC)). This project is one of the longest running projects, managed by the the Katipunan ng Maykapansanan sa Pilipinas Inc (KAMPI) a national federation of cross-disability organizations in the Philippines that removes barriers for persons with disabilities. She also assisted the Deaf organization to lobby with the Parish Priest of St. John’s Cathedral Church in the city to have mass with a sign language interpreter, which has taken an active approach in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.

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Gaining Experience while Inspiring

Noor Muhammad Ariffin AzeeraNoor Muhammad Ariffin Azeera of Ipoh, Malaysia, has an enthusiasm for community development. With a bachelor’s degree in Islamic banking and finance and a graduate degree in business, her passion lies in using policy to improve the wellbeing of her country. After she graduated in 2007, she joined the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research, Malaysia's leader in economic, social and political issues.

After three and a half years with Merdeka, Azeera returned to school. She attended the International Institute of Public Policy and Management (INPUMA) at the University of Malaya. However, she chose not to finish her study, as she won a scholarship from the Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) in the middle of her program.

With IDPP/ American University faculty members, IDPP second cohort and AGENDA prime movers, Chris Donn and Hepi Sebayang after AGENDA Briefing and Presentation at the 2-week IDPP Residency Program, Sampran Riverside, Bangokok, ThailandThe IDPP is a network of organizations in Southeast Asia that connect to the American University in Washington, D.C. The IDPP offers a master’s degree in disability policy through American University’s School of International Services (SIS). The program envisions a rights-based, barrier-free and inclusive society in Southeast Asia by producing students who contribute to the development and analysis of policies related to persons with disabilities.

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Visiting Students Assist LDPA

Samir Ashraf and Alison Hamburg were in Vientianne,Lao, to assist with one of AGENDA’s Partners LDPA (Lao Disabled People’s Association) for two weeks, from 7 to 21 January 2013. Their visit is part of the arrangement between AGENDA and School of Interational Public Affairs of the Columbia University, New York, United States of America.

They shared their stories with AGENDA.

Samir Ashraf

Samir and Alison helped LDPA to write their research reportMy involvement with the AGENDA project began two months ago as part of a Columbia University team that is tasked with assessing the capacity of partner disability organizations (DPOs). Initially, I knew the scope of my team's project and the goals of AGENDA, but had little grasp of the nature of partner DPOs outside of anecdotal information and completed AGENDA country reports. Thus, when I learned that I would travel to Lao PDR to work with the Lao Disabled People's Association (LDPA) I was excited at the opportunity and curious about what I would experience.

In preparation for my trip I tried to not have expectations, for fear of imposing my own preconceived notions on a situation I had yet to experience and also to avoid being let down or overwhelmed. I was also conscious of not equating my experience in Laos with my other professional and volunteer experiences in less developed countries. Thus, my first impression of the LDPA was more cultural than professional. I felt very welcome by the staff at the LDPA and also felt the traditional Lao warmth, hospitality, and humility.

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