In November 2018, the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) interviewed participants of its "Strategic Communications and Advocacy" training in Jakarta, Indonesia. The training brought together disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) from eight countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community. AGENDA, a network of DPOs and election-focused CSOs in Southeast Asia, was founded by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in 2011. An English transcript of the interview with advocates from Myanmar is available below and has been edited for clarity.
Interviewer: We are in the middle of the AGENDA training on Strategic Communication and Advocacy for Regional Disability Inclusion in Jakarta, Indonesia. It is running from first to forth of November 2018, and I am very pleased to be here because we have some of the participants to be interviewed regarding the knowledge and skills that they have gained from this training in relation to the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan. First of all, would you mind introducing yourselves?
Yu Ya Thu: My name is Yu Ya Thu and I am a representative from Myanmar. I work for the Myanmar Independent Leaving Initiative, a disabled people’s organization.
Interviewer: Hello, Yu.
Thet Phyu Wai: My name is Phyu Wai and I come from Myanmar. I also work with the Myanmar Independent Leaving Initiative. Nice to meet you.
Interviewer: Nice to meet you, Phyu. What do you think are the most important skills about a communicating the key messages when it comes to implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan?
Phyu: For me, the most important skill is advocating to the government. We also need good communication skills and good presentation skills. If we have expert communication and presentation skills, we can advocate effectively.
Yu: As Phyu mentioned, different types of strategies are used when advocating to the government and targeted stakeholders. I also think that communication skills are very critical not only for verbal communication such as in-person meetings, but also written communications such as letters to officials. We have to be very diplomatic. Other necessary skills include the ability to do a stakeholder analysis. We advocate to respective stakeholders about our goal. To reach our goal, we have to reach out to the right stakeholders. Therefore, the stakeholder analysis is the one of the most important skills I learned from this training. Analytical skills are also important because we have to decide on priority areas for our advocacy efforts. Persons with disabilities are still left behind in many areas of life, such education, employment and other areas, so we have to decide what is our priority area. We cannot advocate on so many things, so we have to set a goal. Decision making skills are also important for advocacy, especially for the Masterplan. When we negotiate with stakeholders, they may deny our request so we need to have a compelling argument to convince them. Therefore, decision making skills are also important.
Interviewer: During this training, you worked with disability rights advocates from across the region to develop messages for the Masterplan. What do you think is the key message that should be heard by your government?
Phyu: The most relevant message for our country is to promote the rights of persons with disabilities using the Masterplan. Our government is responsible for promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, but they have many other priorities for the country. So, we need to introduce to the government how to implement the Masterplan. This is the key message that is more relevant for our country.
Interviewer: [to Yu] How about you?
Yu: ASEAN member countries experience the same difficulties. In the ASEAN region, our governments are facing many limitations relating to their budgets, human resources and technical support. During this training, we learned a lot about the Masterplan, why the Masterplan is important, who are the stakeholders and the important role the government plays in implementing the masterplan. Since the past decade, we have developed many relevant policies, such as the Incheon Strategy or the Bali Declaration. However, persons with disabilities are still left behind. We cannot participate fully in the development of materials and we cannot access many goods and services, like obtaining an ID card or receiving a quality education. To implement the Masterplan, DPOs also have an important role and responsibility. Representatives from each country are getting ready to implement the Masterplan and discussing how to support their respective governments to support the meaningful inclusion of everyone in ASEAN member countries. I believe we can fill the gap to ensure the effective implementation of the three main ASEAN pillars—the socio-cultural pillar, the political pillar and the economic pillar.
Interviewer: [to Phyu] It is interesting that you mentioned about the pillars because the process to expand the coverage has taken so many years since we have such limited time. What is the most important lesson that you have learned from your peers in this training?
Phyu: All the participants in this training come from different countries. But we share the same goal of implementing the Masterplan. We learned from our peers more about the different strategies for advocating with the government and other stakeholders.
Interviewer: [to Yu] And how about you?
Yu: As DPOs from ASEAN countries, we have the same situations. Even though Thailand and Indonesia are more developed than other ASEAN countries, they face the same challenges. We learned during the training more about the different strategies to advocate to our respective stakeholders. We learned a lot of different strategies to advocate to our respective governments.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time.