A common voice for justice: Voices for Justice Conference 2015

30 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

CBM Australia’s Advocacy Support Officer, Elle Spring, recently attended the Voices for Justice Conference in Canberra; here she writes about her experience. Voices for Justice is an annual Christian advocacy conference in Canberra from October 10 to 13 organised by Micah Australia.

This year I was given the opportunity to attend – which I jumped at. During the four-day conference I had the unique opportunity to gather with close to 200 like-minded Christians from across Australia and raise a united voice to influence our nation’s political leaders and government policy for the benefit of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The first two days of the conference focused on giving participants the knowledge and practical skills needed to take their voice to lobby meetings at Australia’s Parliament House. I attended, along with my fellow participants, a range of engaging workshops, advocacy training, lobby meeting preparations and policy briefings, and listened to inspiring speakers.

Lobby meeting

Elle Spring (left) with Senator Linda Reynolds (middle) and lobby group members at Australian Parliament House, Canberra.

There were many highlights for me during these first couple of days, but if I had to choose just two, it would be listening to Sef Carroll from the Uniting Church speak so passionately about climate change and the impact on women in the Pacific region, as well as an eye-opening simulation of life as subsistence fishing families living in the Pacific.

The simulation broke participants into many family groups and gave us a set of real-life scenarios. The game gave us the smallest glimpse of what is reality for so many families living in the low-lying Pacific islands contending with an unreliable source of income and the impacts of climate change.

By day three, we were armed with all of the information needed to take our voices to Senators and MPs at Parliament House. This year the lobby meetings were calling for climate change action and restoring Australian aid.

Over two days,participants attended almost 100 meetings – in their allocated lobby groups. What a way to unite our voices for justice! My lobby group had two meetings, one with Dr Dennis Jensen MP and the other with Senator Linda Reynolds. It was an excellent experience speaking to Senators and MPs and advocating for issues that we feel so passionate about.

Voices for Justice participants gather on the lawns of Australian Parliament

Voices for Justice participants gather on the lawns of Australian Parliament House for a candle light prayer vigil to pray for a world free from poverty.

While carrying out lobby meetings at Parliament House was obviously a huge highlight, one of the greatest highlights of the conference for me was the Pacific Challenges and Australian Engagement Forum at Parliament House, where the new Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Steve Ciobo, was amongst the speakers on the panel.

CBM Australia’s community engagement officer, Stevie Wills, also opened the Forum with her new Australian Aid poem, which was performed for the first time at Voices for Justice.

The poem was a strong message to remind the speakers, and audience, that Australian aid is not about charity, it’s about development – and Australia can do more in promoting a just and equal world for all.

The conference also coincided with the launch of Micah Australia – the renewed vision of Micah Challenge. It was an ideal time to reveal the new vision and brand identity of Micah Australia as we were truly putting it into practice – “Do Justice Together”.

Altogether, it was an incredibly inspiring four days. I feel extremely lucky to have added my voice, along with all participants, to a common voice for justice – now let’s continue to do justice together.

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CBM in Kenya – A Field Visit Part 5

30 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

In this final instalment from Kenya, CBM’s Rob Nicholls highlights the impact CBM’s partner organisations are having in the poorest communities. He also takes the time to reflect on how CBM is helping those in poverty with a disability to dream again… Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Rob with AIC Cure KenyaWe sat in a humble Board room in beautiful surroundings in Kijabe in the spectacular Rift Valley. Peter, the CEO of CBM partner AIC Cure Kenya spoke of the goal of the work done in this hospital as assisting people “to be able to dream again”. Beside him sat Livingstone, who has worked with family liaison and advocacy in the organisation, and was the first patient of Cure Hospital back in 1989. He had was by a spider at the age of 9 and was headed for a short life when he connected with Cure. Livingstone’s previous experience with misdiagnosis and witch doctors had left him and his family in despair and expecting a short life. However, at Cure he was diagnosed with scholiosis, had surgery and other treatment and returned home to pursue his schooling and his future. Some years later he reconnected with Cure and became a volunteer until he completed his college degree when he joined the staff. He dreamt big and now helps others to do the same.

AIC Cure Kenya treats about 10,000 patients each year with about 7,000 surgeries. They conduct mobile clinics around Kenya, as well as fixed club foot clinics in most counties in Kenya. They work with children and adults with conditions including club foot, untreated burns, cleft lips and palates and hydrocephalus. They carry out corrective work, including surgery, fit prosthetics and provide training and counselling to those with whom they work. We visited the patients currently there for treatment and met a number of children and their mothers, as well as single adults in for surgery.

One young man, Joseph, was there having prosthetics fitted to both legs which had been amputated. This 25 year old man was to be go home soon and his older brother would come in for the same treatment. Both brothers had developed a “leprosy-like condition” which necessitated these amputations. They lived in very poor circumstances with no education, and the staff had decided that they personally would all fund a new home for the two men to give them a chance in life with a more positive environment and no rent. We asked Joseph what he wanted to do now that he had his prosthetics. He said he wanted to go back to church and start a small business, in that order. He was regaining his dreams.

A beautiful mother sat on the bed with her seven year old daughter whose hand was wrapped in bandages. This girl and her twin sister were burnt in a fire in their home at four months of age. When they got to Cure a process of burn treatment commenced which would see both girls regain the skin on their heads and the use of their hands. It was a long and difficult journey but today the mother says “I can smile now!” More dreams resurrected.

An important feature of the work of Cure was the work they were doing with people whose disability could not be removed by various treatments. People like Joseph who would live with their disability for the rest of his life and others who would always use a wheelchair for mobility. We had walked through the rough terrain of many villages so it was exciting to find a rough terrain training course for people using wheelchairs, including rocky tracks, large obstacles and steps. Of course the wheelchairs they used were also modified for such conditions. When the Olympics feature a cross-country wheelchair race, I think the gold medal winner might be a graduate of this training!

The scarce resources we saw at Cure were being maximised to bring all the benefits possible to the people who turned up at their Kijabe clinic or any of the mobile clinics. There was a sense of great optimism and hope all around this vital service despite how under-resourced Peter and his team were for the demands that were put on them. Another community that needs all the support we can provide, including prayer, so that they can help people who’ve lost hope to dream again.

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CBM in Kenya – A Field Visit Part 4

29 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

CBM’s Church Engagement Lead Rob Nicholls reflects in this fourth instalment from Kenya on the impact cataract surgery can have not only on the individual, but on the whole family and entire communities.

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Today, a fellow grandfather looked at me as we parted and said, “I like your job!”. I replied that I did too, especially today. We had a common bond – he grew coffee and I love drinking it! But we also shared a sense of enormous achievement as we gazed at his granddaughter, Leila, and great-granddaughter Lacy.

Lacy had been born totally blind with cataracts in both eyes. After some months, Leila’s mother and aunt both expressed concern; Leila’s aunt took Lacy to Sabatia Eye Hospital, a specialist eye care hospital in Vihiga County, Western Kenya, which today we visited. Just this month, both of Lacy’s cataracts were removed and replaced with lenses; now her mother describes her as a happy and active girl “doing all the things I saw other babies do”. As we sat in the room with three generations the emotion was palpable, and we were thanked for our part in this.

CBM was present at the inception of Sabatia Hospital and has been strong partner throughout that time. In fact, CBM’s support enabled children like Lacy to have vital surgery at no cost, when it would have been beyond the resources of the family to pay the full cost.

We spent a number of hours with Dr Annis Orlando, the CEO and paediatric ophthalmologist, who introduced us to almost all of the staff and spoke with great passion of the importance of this work and of ensuring that everyone had access to good eye care.

40,000 people per annum receive treatment through the hospital, and they train doctors from Kenya, Uganda, Ruanda and Tanzania to expand the number of people impacted by this great work. We saw everything from eye testing, assessment and diagnosis, prescription, surgery and even spectacle-making, as we walked the hallways of this beautiful place. We chatted with men and women as they had their eye patches removed after their surgery the day before. They ranged from 16 years old to over 80, and we also met very young babies with their mothers as they waited for or recovered from surgery. I loved watching the warmth of the interactions between our group of Christine, Wendy and Dona with those people.
Of course, not everything happened at the hospital; we had heard of the outreach work to visit schools and remote community where, following screening, people were bussed to the hospital for surgery.
I had a long-held wish fulfilled as I stood in the operating theatre and watched three adults have their cataracts removed and new lenses put in their place! A very young baby even had delicate surgery done to correct his glaucoma-affected vision. I watched, amazed, as miracles literally took place before my eyes! We were fortunate that large screens had been linked to the microscope used by the surgeons as they worked. Their deftness working with such small instruments in such a delicate part of the body was professionalism at the highest level. That is not an experience I will ever forget.

The home visits that followed helped us experience the impact and see the importance of that surgery. Seeing young Lacy was a beautiful experience, as was visiting an older couple Joaquin and Esther.

Joaquin was a farmer with cattle and crops who was the breadwinner for his family at over 70 years of age. For 18 months he was unable to work because his eyesight had deteriorated to the point of not being able to go anywhere without Esther’s help and not being able to read his bible, a significant loss for him.
His crops had shrunk to a fraction of their normal size when he finally had both cataracts removed this month. He is now able to get back to work, be mobile and read his bible. Esther was very happy because she could now get on with her work too and not have to lead Joaquin everywhere. They were a joyful couple who wanted to wish us and CBM many kind blessings.

It was hard to leave the conversation I was having with my fellow grandfather, Mohammed. We managed to communicate that we both believed in our brotherhood, whatever our beliefs, and loved our families. I left with his words ringing in my ears and thanking God for my job and the opportunity to meet such genuine people who knew how to be grateful.

Read Part 5

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CBM in Kenya – A Field Visit Part 3

28 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

In this third installment, CBM’s Church Engagement Lead Rob Nicholls tells us of the experience of seeing people having their bandages removed after surgery and his trip out into Masai country. See Part 1 and Part 2.

As we waited for the speech about how to look after yourself following cataract surgery, one of the men who had just had his dressing removed stood up and addressed all those present. He praised the work of AIC Kajaido and then addressed us, the sponsors with the words, “you have sponsored the right people!” That was a good summary of our experience of visiting the work of African Inland Child Centre in Kajiado. This work includes education, physiotherapy, orthopaedics, dispensary and in-home support.

The Director of AIC Kajaido, Daniel, spoke to us of the work there amongst the Masai people and of the importance of early intervention for children with disabilities and, therefore the outreach work into the Masai rural communities in the Kajaido district. He spoke of children with disabilities who may not have lived, becoming influential people in the community. Daniel himself was an example of a Masai child who had become disabled through polio, received an education and is now impacting many people. The predominant condition now faced by the centre is cerebral palsy. Daniel told us of the efforts being made to improve maternal heath and obstetrics to prevent the growth of this condition. There are cultural issues, including a preference for home birth, as well as the shortage of available services to many isolated women, which all contribute to this.

Daniel introduced us to the physiotherapist, Joseph, who showed us the work of his area. This work included post-operative work and working with children with club foot. The distances that people had to travel, mostly walking for many hours, meant that it was often important to provide on-site accommodation and to provide in-home support. We were soon to discover what that meant. We were given the opportunity to visit two families who were having in-home visits that afternoon.

Before we headed for the bush, we had the amazing experience of watching as 10 people had their bandages removed following cataract surgery the previous day. We watched as 7 women, 2 men and one boy blinked and enjoyed the experience of restored sight. One man exclaimed as he saw clearly the people in front of him and we saw the 10 year old boy read for the first time since he’d had an accident over a month ago. The women in our group had some warm conversations with the Masai women as they celebrated being able to work on their ornate jewellery again, amongst other things. Julius who managed the dispensary spoke of the enormous challenge of tackling the health issues such as cataracts, club foot and cerebral palsy and the recent establishment of a small maternity unit on site.

The trip into Masai country was an adventure in itself. It felt like we had our own impromptu safari as we drove along some very rough tracks and found ourselves walking through the gate of an authentic Masai busma compound and negotiating the smoky darkness of a manyatta (house). We, with a group of women and children there, watched as Joseph set up a sitting and standing frame in one busma and delivered a customised wheelchair in another.

The Masai are a strong and dignified people with a strong commitment to maintaining traditions and culture. Of course, this is a very important goal but we also heard from Daniel of the determination of he and his team to modify some traditions when it comes to maternal health and disability. He noted that they were committed to every person with a disability being enabled to live a full and inclusive life. He asked that we pray for him and his team as they work with the Masai people. They face enormous challenges but all staff spoke of their faith that God is with them in this challenge.

Read Part 4

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CBM in Kenya – A Field Visit Part 2

27 October, 2015 - Steph Gaut

In this second installment, CBM’s Church Engagement Lead Rob Nicholls reflects on hearing confronting stories from the Nairobi slums, and how CBM and its partners are a light in the darkness for many living in poverty with a disability…
Read Part 1

 

Patients after a cataract operationPartnerships are such a key way that CBM works, and we were reminded today about the importance of these partners with their intimate knowledge of the regions and people they work with. The incredible strength of the families (mostly mothers) we met and the quiet brilliance of the workers who link up to empower those families stood out for me today. These characteristics particularly stood out because of the apparent hopelessness of the environment where we met, the Mukuru slums – with a population of approximately 500,000 and little employment, very few homes with electricity and communal water taps and toilets.

Today we visited CBM partner Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK), guided by a representative of the CBM East Africa Regional Office. After an introduction to APDK, we were shown some of the onsite work with physiotherapists and occupational therapists assisting people ranging from very young children through to adults. Many children miss out on early detection and remedial work because of the long delay in diagnosis.

Also onsite at APDK is an amazing factory  producing large numbers of mobility devices such as this amazing ‘business tricycle’ (see below) and customised wheelchairs that negotiate the rough terrain of the schools and streets where people live. These are designed locally as well as being built in the local factory by local people, including a significant number of people with disabilities using mostly locally-sourced materials. It’s a model that is empowering on so many levels.

 

One of the special tricycles produced at CBM's partner, APDK in Kenya for people with mobility issues.

One of the special tricycles produced at CBM’s partner, APDK in Kenya for people with mobility issues.

 

Eunice from APDK is part of the organisation’s Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, and together with her we traveled to the Mukuru slums.The attitude of the residents belies the apparent hopelessness of the slum.

We visited a primary school in Mukuru hosting a day care unit for young children with disabilities (mostly cerebral palsy), and a special unit within the primary school for older children with disabilities. We heard stories from six mothers with children with many common features. Unfortunately, they all had the common negative themes of  no detection or diagnosis of disability before their child was one year old, desertion by their husbands when that diagnosis was made, isolation within their neighbourhood and struggles to survive because they had to stay home and not work. But through CBM’s partners, the positives were the great impact of being connected to the day care unit where their child improved through the support they got, being able to work while the child was in day care and the support groups that were formed by the mothers (and some fathers) that enabled them to gain confidence and advocate for themselves and their children.

I was greatly encouraged by these stories, and the resilience and determination of these mothers. The children had such potential and their presence within the school and the team formed by the mothers and APDK indicated to me that this potential could be realised. Mukuru didn’t seem as dark as when I first saw it.

Read Part 3

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CBM in Kenya – A Field Visit Part 1

26 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

All this week we’ll be sharing insights from our team who’ve travelled over to Kenya for a Church Engagement field visit. In this post, Rob, Church Engagement Coordinator, shares about his first impressions, his inaugural Kenyan church experience and what he’s looking forward to visiting CBM projects and meeting CBM beneficiaries.

Rob and friends in KenyaI’ve arrived in Nairobi with great expectations. We’re visiting a great range of work by our partners in Nairobi, Kajiado, Kisumu, Kakamega and Kijabe. More about all of those places as the week goes on but we will get to see lots of community based work in urban and rural locations amongst people disadvantage by the combination of poverty and disability.

At CBM Australia we’ve been planning to take church leaders to visit CBM projects for about 4 years! We do understand the impact we can have on our field partners, country and regional offices and so we’re very grateful for the time and effort they have made to welcome us to Kenya. Linda Mwania, my colleague at CBM Australia has made the difference because of her deep knowledge of working with all of these groups and her skills at planning and negotiating such a visit. I’m also excited that we have Rev Dona Spencer from Southport Uniting Church and Wendy Campbell from Paradise Point Uniting Church part of this first church leaders’ field trip.

Our first day served to help us adjust to life in Kenya and connect as a team. Linda’s church in Nairobi, Nairobi Chapel, is an exciting church and very hospitable. I loved the passion of this community and the beauty of the relationships we experienced. The afternoon was different in a number of ways as we visited a local market where we met trade was brisk and sometimes brutal. Fortunately, humour was also found in the midst of commercial negotiations. I was offered all the contents of one stall in exchange for my camera!

After meeting our photographer extraordinaire, Guilio, we met up with Kirsten Bostelmann, CBM Regional Director East Africa, who briefed us on our trip and some important cultural guidelines that would help us not offend those we were visiting. It reminded me of the intrusion we make when we visit people with disabilities and the families and CBM’s partner organisations. They have important work to do and lives to live so we need to tread lightly and understand the privilege this is. Tomorrow we will meet people living in urban poverty and hear their stories.

Read Part 2

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Looking towards 2030: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

16 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

Elle Spring is an Advocacy Support Officer at CBM Australia. For International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Elle reflects on the achievements of global efforts to resolve poverty and what is possible by 2030.

Today, we celebrate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Last month, world leaders met in New York to adopt the Global Goals – 17 goals for global development that will transform our world over the next 15 years. Ending poverty – in all its forms, everywhere – is goal number one.

Eradicating global poverty in 15 years sounds like an impossible task. An ambitious vision with all of the right intentions, but surely it’s just a vision? Not necessarily.

In 2000, in what was the largest gathering of world leaders in history, a commitment to resolve poverty and its causes was pledged.

And now, 15 years on, we live in a world where global poverty has been halved; where 43 million more children of primary school age attend school; and where the number of undernourished people in developing regions has dropped by almost half.

But to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, the efforts must be inclusive of all people. Globally, there are one billion people with disability, and they were left behind in the previous pledge to resolve poverty and its causes.

Poverty and disability often interact to create a cycle. Poverty can cause disability through many factors, such as inadequate nutrition, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and unsafe working conditions.

In turn, disability can contribute to and deepen poverty, as a person with disability is less likely to have access to rehabilitation, health care, education and employment opportunities.

By 2030 Nobody Will Live in Extreme Poverty. Anywhere in The World

Therefore, to achieve a world free from all forms of poverty everywhere, people with disability – who make up 15 per cent of the global population – must be included in, benefit from and contribute to poverty eradication efforts.

As the great Nelson Mandela said in his 2005 speech for the Campaign to Make Poverty History:

“Poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere is upholding a fundamental human right for all people of all abilities. Leaving no one behind is a theme of the Global Goals, which reference the inclusion of people with disability.

By 2030, we could live in a world where the eradication of poverty has been achieved. The previous pledge of resolving poverty and its causes shows us that no matter how ambitious the vision, if there is concentrated and collaborative action, it is possible.

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Congratulations to all the Women of Influence

16 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

 

Kirsty - 100 Women of Influence

Congratulations to our very own Inclusive Development Director, Dr Kirsty Thompson and the other nominees in  The Australian Financial Review and Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence Awards 2015.

Kirsty was nominated as one of 10 most influential woman in the Global category for her work in strengthening Australia’s Aid program through disability-inclusive development. The award ceremony was held last night in Sydney, with organisers selecting one winner from each of the 10 categories.

Kirsty’s early lived experience of disability, having been born with club-feet, contributed strongly to her understanding and approaches towards disability-inclusive development. She studied Occupational Therapy at the University of Sydney and at a very early point in her career focused on the social and economic exclusion generally faced by people living with disability.

Kirsty joined CBM in 2005, bringing a unique combination of academic knowledge, practical experience and extraordinary passion. Kirsty’s influential role in strengthening CBM Australia’s advocacy, and the creation of the ‘Australian Disability and Development Consortium’ (ADDC), were foundational to the launch of Australia’s first ‘Development for All’ Strategy in 2008; re-launched by the Hon Julie Bishop in 2015.

Since 2008 ‘Development for All’ has created enormous strength in Australia’s Aid Program, ensuring people with disability, who make up 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people, are included in international development efforts.

Today, Kirsty continues to fight for change and ensure people with disability are being intentionally included in and are contributing to development and poverty alleviation strategies.

The 100 Women of Influence Awards identify and celebrate bold, energetic women who capture the spirit of progress, helping shape a vibrant, inclusive, economic and social future for Australia. Congratulations to Kirsty and to all the women who were recognised for their achievements and contributions to our society helping shape a vibrant, inclusive, economic and social future for Australia – and its role in the global community.

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A Voice for Justice

13 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

Elle Spring, an advocacy support officer at CBM Australia, writes this blog from the Voices for Justice Conference in Canberra.

The annual four-day Voices for Justice Conference in Canberra has kicked off and day two is already coming to a close. The conference offers participants a unique opportunity to gather with like-minded Christians from across Australia and raise a united voice to influence our nation’s political leaders and government policy for the benefit of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. The practical conference aims to equip and inspire new and experienced advocates alike.

I’m here with Stevie Wills, a community education officer also from CBM Australia. Stevie is an incredibly talented performance poet, public speaker and advocate. Myself and other attendees at Voices for Justice have been fortunate enough to hear Stevie’s latest poem about Foreign Aid performed for the first time! It’s a strong message to remind us that foreign aid is not about charity, it’s about development, and Australia can do more in promoting a just and equal world for all.

I’m thrilled to share Stevie’s poem here and I strongly encourage you to take a few moments of your time to read and absorb the beautifully crafted words.

Foreign Aid

Discrepancy
between the notion of generosity
and the allocation of equity
to the foreign aid budget
if doubled
even tripled
it would remain less than one percent
of gross national income.
Promises alongside the United Nations
delayed
diverted
from our fair share
to give a fair go.
A fair go
is a hand up
over a hand out
empowerment
over charity
it’s immunisation
minimisation of death by preventable causes
separation of sewage
from drinking, washing water
sanitation and skilled attendants
at the births of sons and daughters
education, souls expanding their borders
of capabilities
opportunities
possibilities.

Australia, we could give our fair share
allocate still more yet
leave the lions share
around ninety-nine percent
to look after our own.
Does that not negate
the need to designate
who’s first looked after?
Enabled to look after
our own and others
simultaneously.

So let us speak up for fair
speak out for right.
Let compassion prevail over fear
hope transcend despair
generosity triumph over insecurity
love conquer apathy.
Let us look not only to our own interests
but also to the interests of others.
Let us speak justice into being
speaking voices of justice.

By Stevie Wills

 

 

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International Day of the Girl

11 October, 2015 - CBM Australia

Today, 11 October, marks the International Day of the Girl Child. It’s an important day each year to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.

Neouy's Story

The theme for International Day of the Girl Child is: The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030 in recognition of the importance of investing in adolescent girls’ empowerment and rights, both today and in the future.

To achieve the Vision for 2030 for all adolescent girls, development efforts must be inclusive of adolescent girls with disability. Therefore, it’s essential for development organisations to apply a disability-inclusive approach.

CBM Australia partners with many organisations to help develop and strengthen their capacity to support people with disability in their own development programs. One such organisation is Plan International Australia . Our work with Plan includes joint learning and advocacy to promote gender equality and disability inclusive practice, which is why we’re excited to be sharing one of their case studies today.

The case study  is about Neouy, 21, from a rural village in Cambodia. When she was just 3-years-old she contracted an illness that left her with a disability.

Neouy tried to attend school, but the long walk made it too difficult and she faced negative attitudes from the other children.

Fortunately, Neouy was put in touch with a non-governmental organisation (NGO), and through Plan International and Krousar Yoeung’s project – Vocational Training for Disadvantaged Young People – she has completed vocational training in make-up skills.

“Today, life is changed. I have lived and learnt in the [vocational] centre for four months to complete my make-up skills. The teachers and classmates here are kind to me and I have good friends here. The teachers encourage me and my friends do not mind about my disability,” says Neouy.

Neouy has since returned home, and with the skills she learnt at the vocational centre, she now earns an income and is empowered to plan for her future.

“Now, I am thinking about my future shop. If the opportunity provides for me again, I will go for additional skills…I am changed now,” says Neouy.

This is just one example of how inclusive programs benefit all adolescent girls of all abilities, both today and in the future. Investing in adolescent girls’ empowerment and rights is central to achieving gender equality for all, including women and girls with disability.

With the very recent adoption of the Global Goals, the day falls at a time of renewed global commitment to addressing inequalities and gender equality is central to achieving them.

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