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 Vietnam is available below and has been edited for clarity.
Tolhas: Hi everyone, this is Tolhas Damanik. I am the Disability Rights Advisor for AGENDA, [and] I am glad to see you again in Jakarta. IFES/AGENDA organized the training on communication strategy and advocacy to prepare DPOs in ASEAN to be ready for the launching and implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan on Disability 2025. In this interview today, we are glad that we have two colleagues from Vietnam who participated in this training, and I would like to ask them to introduce themselves first. OK, maybe can start from you, Hong Ha.
Hong Ha: Hello, I am Hong Ha from Hanoi Independent Living Center and the DPO of Hanoi.
Tolhas: OK, and you Ms Thuy.
Thuy: Hi, [speaking Vietnamese], Bich Thuy from Hanoi Independent Living Center, nice to meet you.
Tolhas: OK, thank you very much for your availability to be interviewed by us. OK, I will start this interview [by] asking first, since you already participated in this training for four days, what do you think the skills that advocates on persons with disabilities should have for the implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan. How about you, Hong Ha?
Hong Ha: Well, I think the very important skills the advocate should have are the communication skills, how to raise awareness among the community and among the government officers, and how to empower the DPOs.
Tolhas: So how about you, Thuy, what kind of skills that you as an advocate need to have?
Thuy: I think writing the clear impact and innovative message is very important for DPOs because it will say very clearly for everybody what you want to do and what you need other persons to help you [to do] to work on the Masterplan.
Tolhas: OK, so, what do you feel about participating in this training, whether this training already give you the skills?
Hong Ha: Well, I think my colleague [and I] have learned a lot from this training. First, we learned the advocating skills. Second, we learned from the experiences of our colleagues in different countries. The most important things is to learn about the ASEAN system and the hierarchy of the ASEAN law, and this very good for us to relay on [to others] to do advocacy.
Tolhas: And how about you, Thuy?
Thuy: This is the first time I have [learned] something about the ASEAN structure. I think after this training, I [will] read more about that to understand. Number two is how to cooperate [with] other persons in the advocacy campaign, like brainstorming. The way of brainstorming is very useful for people with disability when writing message.
Tolhas: OK, so I think we also realize that the role of the government to ensure the implementation of this Masterplan later is very important because we want this document not only just on paper, but we really want this document to be implemented even in your own country. So, what do you think is the message that your government should know about the Masterplan?
Hong Ha: I think the message should be clear first and then very practical, so, I suggest that each should work together for the Masterplan, and…I don’t know if my colleague agree with me.
Thuy: Two days before we worked on how to work on the message, and I writing the Vietnam version message, and I think I still keep that message called ‘implementing the Masterplan: you and me will work to make the society inclusive’.
Tolhas: So, that is the way you promote that your government should participate or your government should ensure the implementation later and work together with all DPOs and CSOs together and so to make society more inclusive.
Hong ha: Hopefully.
Tolhas: Hopefully, OK, yeah. So, we already four days here ya for this training. This is very interesting, even though it is tiring, but I know you got a lot of experiences as well because we invited the representatives of DPOs from seven countries to be here for this training. So, can you share us what kind of things that interested you from other colleagues, from other countries?
Hong Ha: Well, from other countries, from other colleagues, we know more about the different political systems, the different ways to do elections, and that any way we can learn the message that they can use to do the advocacy, and the, the spirit of the people who are involve in a.. in the advocacy, or campaign, or things like that, and I really appreciate that their support and their willingness to share the experience with others. And I hope I can learn, and in the future, I can learn more about and more from other colleagues in the ASEAN countries.
Tolhas: How about you, Thuy?
Thuy: I [am] impressed [by] Apple, the lady from Thailand. She is blind, but she can write article very quickly and meaningful, and very clear. I [am] impressed [by] that skill.
Tolhas: OK, OK, so this time, the DPOs in the national level, they have considered that the advocacy at the regional level is important. So, Thuy and Hong Ha, what is your hope for the DPOs in ASEAN in the future?
Hong Ha: Well, I am thinking of a very brighter future where all the DPOs are taken as a stakeholders in the program to the development of the countries, in the AICHR and in the ASEAN countries
Tolhas: OK, how about you Thuy, what is your hope for the DPOs in ASEAN?
Thuy: I hope that we could have more training like this, other DPOs can join, and they can have the knowledge about the Masterplan and skills in advocacy, and I hope that we would make a larger network and to work in the region.
Tolhas: Yeah, I think this is a good start when we can, as DPOs, work hand-in-hand and communicate together to make our voice become stronger for the ASEAN. OK, I think this is the last of our conversation. Thank you very much for your time, Thuy and Hong Ha, wishing you luck for the next future, success with your advocacy effort, and I hope to see you sometimes, even for the launching of the Masterplan, fingers crossed we will have it soon from the ASEAN, and we really hope that ASEAN will be more inclusive for persons with disabilities and for the better society. Thank you very much everyone, thank you very much for watching us, this is Tolhas Damanik and also Hong Ha and Thuy from Jakarta. Good Bye…