Mt Wilhelm climbing team - Shirley Moiga: Front Right
A big part of NDRAC’s work is to profile and promote good practice and new ways of working that can move Papua New Guinea towards a fully inclusive society.
In November, NDRAC had the privilege of meeting up with Shirley Moiga, Secretary of the Eastern Highlands Province Disability Secretariat to discuss how disability has been pushed up the political agenda in the Province through the development of the Eastern Highlands Disability Committee (EDC) in 2009, a Provincial Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO). Shirley has a physical disability caused by polio.
NDRAC: How did people with disabilities (PWDs) come together to form the Eastern Highlands Disability Committee (EDC) and the Disability Secretariat in the EH Provincial Government?
Shirley Moiga (SM): EDC was initiated by PWDs, who came together and other partner organisations to establish an organisation that would be about PWDs supporting themselves. The founding members wanted to do away with the charity model and start to move towards a rights–based model which emphasis that PWDs have the same rights as all human beings.
The idea was initiated by Martin Kawage (vision impairment), Israel Kine (vision impairment), Billy Saitore (physically challenged - crutches) and Jim Ranisoso (physically challenged – crutches) who held their first ever meeting under a tree and came up with the idea of setting up an organisation with PWDs as members and leaders in voicing the concerns of people with disabilities to ensure equal and full participation in all aspects of life.
The group began to grow with support from VSO volunteer Marcel Pool and through networking with other organisations including; Mt. Sion, Physiotherapy, Save the Children Fund, Mercy Works and National Sports Institute. EDC was officially formed in February 2009.
EDC’s activities ranged from empowerment workshops to major regional awareness raising campaigns to promote disability rights. It was during one of these events that Ishmael Leanave (physical challenged) approached the then Governor, Malcolm Smith Kela to see if he would create a disability desk within the Provincial Government, he agreed but on the condition that the position was taken by a PWD. In November 2011, Mr Smith fulfilled his promise and I was successful in my application to become the first ever secretary to the EHP Disability Secretariat. Later that month during the EDC Assembly meeting, the National DPO (Nokondi Association of Disabled Persons – NADP) was established. NADP is an umbrella organisation representing District DPOs in the Eastern Highlands.
NDRAC: What did you learn from this experience?
SM: I think all of us involved have learnt a huge amount. We know that to achieve all these things takes time, effort, patience and persistence. If you want something to be done right you have to take the initiative and do something yourself before seeking assistance from others. We learnt that we are differently able and issues concerning us need our input because there is “Nothing about us without us”.
NDRAC: How does EDC, NADP and EHP Disability Secretariat work together to create positive change for People with Disabilities
SM: Essentially, all of our successes have been as a result of working together and putting our personal challenges to one side. I’m particularly proud of the support we give DPOs in the province to help them to become established.
We support grassroots and district DPOs to develop through awareness raising delivered by PWD leaders in the districts. The DPOs in these communities then request EDC and NADP members to conduct empowerment and capacity building training to help the DPOs to become sustainable. This training is funded by EHP Disability Secretariat.
The established DPOs then advocate for their own rights by bringing the issues to NADP meetings, which are then taken forward to EDC and all partners discuss the issues and look for solutions to address the problems. The secretariat then brings these issues to the Office of Community Development and the Provincial Government to advocate for disability inclusive development and secure funding to implement inclusive policies.
NDRAC: What has the EDC, NADP, and EHP Disability Secretariat achieved:
SM: Firstly, it is important to say that both the EHP Disability Secretariat and Nokondi Association of Disabled Persons (NADP) are both as a result of PWDs coming together to form the Eastern Highlands Disability Committee (EDC). Since then EDC has:
- Established NADP, which through funding from the Disability Secretariat has established 3 district DPO’s
- Delivered awareness raising events across the Province, including, climbing Mt. Wilhelm, which is being made into a documentary titled “Trust Without Boarders” by Yumi Piksa.
- Developed a strong and wide reaching network of organisations to ensure disability is kept at the top of the development agenda.
- Increased the number of empowered PWDs’s who are able to advocate for their rights.
NDRAC: Disabled Person Organisations (DPOs) are key to ensuring that Provincial Government’s across Papua New Guinea develop inclusive policies for their citizens. In your experience of supporting the development of DPOs what is needed for their success as organisations?
SM: Firstly, establishing a DPO is not easy and requires people to understand the bigger picture and see the broader issues that affect all people living with disabilities in their community, not just the issues affecting themselves. Here are my top tips:
- Good networking and communication between partner organisation
- Identification of key issues and regular support visits to grassroots DPOs
- Provide capacity building and empowerment training for DPO leaders
- Advocacy and awareness raising to service providers
- PWDs must always be at the forefront of any DPO
- PWD’s must be persistent in their plight to be treated as equal participants of the society.
NDRAC: What do you see as the challenges for disability work in the Eastern Highlands
SM: We face many challenges in the Eastern Highlands but I think the four key areas that need addressing urgently are:
As with many provinces in Papua New Guinea, there is a very high level of illiteracy rate amongst people with disabilities, which makes it difficult for information dissemination and training.
Funding and Resources:
There is also a huge lack of resources (even though we have the disability secretariat, it is just a desk within the governor’s office therefore we need office space and equipments and skilled manpower for assisting the secretary including additional finance to cater for that assistant)
We also need more funding to support grassroots DPOs with their awareness raising, advocacy, and funds to provide more training.
Mobility for PWDs is very important because we are at the forefront of the disability movement in the province and need to be able to travel around to the remote areas of the Province to meet with and support grassroots organisations.
To make a real impact and ensure that local and national Government are putting in place inclusive policies with the funding to implement them, we need better coordination of all organisations and services providers responsible for creating an inclusive and barrier free society for PWDs.
NDRAC: Thank you Shirley for giving us so much of your time. It is great to hear about the achievements the disability movement has made in Eastern Highlands. I hope NDRAC can support EDC to continue their good work and inspire other Provinces to follow your lead.
SM: Thanks NDRAC, keep up your work too. The Eastern Highlands Disability sector is looking forward to working with you in 2013.