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Asia Pacific Network of Independent Living 2011

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National Forum of Women with Disabilities (NFWWDs) is going to organize 1st National Training of Women with Disabilities on Peer-Counseling, 5 – 6 March 2011 in Islamabad, in collaboration with Asia Pacific Network of Independent Living (APNIL), Capital Independent Living Center (CILC), Disabled People’s International (DPI).

Forty disabled women converged in Murree to participate in the first-ever ‘National Training of Women with Disabilities on Peer-Counselling’ held on March 5 and 6. Organised by the Capital Independent Living Centre (CILC), with the support of the Asia Pacific Network of Independent Living (APNIL), the National Forum of Women with Disabilities Pakistan (NFWWD), and the Pakistan Disabled Peoples’ Organisation (PDPO), the training was attended by young women with disabilities from Karachi, Nawabshah, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Muzaffargarh, Faisalabad, Bagh, Muzaffarabad, Abbottabad and Islamabad.

The training was conducted by Abia Akram, coordinator of the Ageing and Disability Task Force (ADTF), and regional women’s Coordinator of Disabled Peoples’ International/Asia Pacific (DPI/AP). Abia is a qualified trainer who has worked with disabled persons for ten years. She has represented Pakistan in various international forums. The objectives of the training were to promote and introduce the concept of peer-counselling; to empower women with disabilities through peer counselling; to consolidate and expand peer support groups; to develop the capacity of both the peer counsellors as well as the staff of Independent Living Centres and Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPOs); and to sensitise disability stakeholders about the positive aspects of full integration of women with disabilities into the society.

Women with disabilities are disadvantaged in several key areas as compared to other women, men with disabilities, and the society as a whole. These women face a triple handicap due to their disability, gender and developing world status. Yet, a large number of Pakistani women with disabilities are courageously taking part in various activities of daily life. In spite of the various policies that the government has so far framed to support Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), the fact is that most PWDs, especially women with disabilities and their families, remain completely un-served by the government as well as NGOs. Even in DPOs, persons with disabilities are often confronted with huge challenges that make it difficult for them to march with dignity in their respective communities.

Peer-counselling enables PWDs to deal with such anxiety by sharing their own experiences. They are give confidence that every person has the capacity to live independently. Since peer-counsellors are PWDs who have similar experiences and are facing same challenges, participants are able to learn from a role model, who can serve as a link between the person seeking help and the service provider. The training draws on a wide range of unique experiences, which cannot be commonly observed.

A good number of PWDs have attended trainings in Japan and Thailand, are employed in mainstream organisations, have received higher education, and are playing a leading role in the society. The establishment of Independent Living Centres in Pakistan is a landmark achievement wherefrom information relating to Independent Living is being disseminated to PWDs.