Europe and Eurasia
Representatives of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) from five Eastern European countries-- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine--joined together in Prague, Czech Republic, on 5-7 December, 2017, to participate in the “Advocacy for More Effective Inclusion in Political and Public Life” training. The training, which focused on effective political advocacy skills and comparative regional experiences, was organized by International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in partnership with “Agate” Rights Defense Center for Women with Disabilities with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The interactive three-day training was led by experienced trainers Virginia Atkinson (IFES Senior Access and Inclusion Specialist), Rebecca Aaberg (IFES Senior Inclusion Officer), Karine Grigoryan (“Agate” NGO President) and Gayane Grigoryan (“Agate” NGO Project Officer), who provided practical guidance during the training. The training, which was led in English and Russian, focused on advocacy techniques for effective communication with government bodies and different stakeholders.
"I really liked the teaching methods, because, in my opinion, they were successfully combined; various topics that may be useful for our further work in this field; experience of other participating countries; theory and practice; interactive tasks."
-Lyudmila Fursova, participant from Ukraine
During the three days of the training the participants were guided to create advocacy plans for reaching goals towards the inclusion of persons with disabilities in political processes. The training also included thematic panels on topics related to the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities as voters, candidates, election observers, election officials and others, in order to provide participants from each different country to share their experiences and best practices.
"The whole training course was very effective and impressive, well organized and interesting, and as for the trainers they all were really professional and highly experienced. During the 3- day training sessions we got acquainted with the concept of Advocacy and its tools, at the same time we learnt about both the International and the European legal and policy frameworks, we got acquainted with techniques for effective communication, as well as learnt about the experience of the other participant countries and shared our experience too."
-Ashot Mkrtchyan, participant from Armenia
The DPOs had a chance not only to gain information, knowledge and best practices from the trainers, but also shared with everyone barriers and strategies for meaningful participation in political and public life, experiences conducting political advocacy initiatives and leadership of persons with disabilities as observers, candidates, elected officials, and election officials. Participants learned how to create an advocacy goal using the SMART approach and how to leverage their organization’s strengths and weaknesses by creating a SWOT analysis.
"I think that all sessions were interesting in their way. But the most useful, probably, were the last sessions, where we did an assessment of the capacities of our organizations and wrote projects, because both the theory and practice were successfully connected in these sessions, and now it is possible to use these lessons to improve our future work."
-Lyudmila Fursova, participant from Ukraine
Working with participants from different countries helped them to brainstorm some areas of focus for advocacy, practice different kinds of advocacy techniques, share their experiences as leaders in political and civic life, make arguments and role play.
"There are so many good impressions at the training, all are really very good. I like the trainers and the way they work with us. It is very easy to assimilate the information, and it is very interactive. Most of all I liked the intercultural experience and the session that we had learned some techniques for effective communication."
-Luliana Tabacari, participant from Moldova
After the Prague training all country participants are going to implement different advocacy actions and activities in their countries, which they drafted during the training The training helped them gain best practices and experience on leadership for an effective advocacy in order to promote political participation of persons of disabilities in Eastern European countries.
Participants also discussed the unique barriers encountered by persons with disabilities with intersectional identities, gaining a deeper understanding of multiple marginalization during a “privilege walk” activity. Intersectionality will be explored further by training participants through research conducted in Armenia on barriers to the inclusion of women with disabilities in the political process and through seminars and inclusive activities that will be conducted in Georgia to raise awareness of disability rights among youth with disabilities and their peers.