Reflections on Itad’s work to promote the equitable participation of people with disabilities in issues that affect them

The UK government has successfully co-hosted its first ever Global Disability Summit to boost efforts to identify and overcome barriers that prevent people with disabilities (PWDs) reaching their full potential. In this blog, Itad’s Abdulkareem Lawal reviews the highlights of Itad’s recent disability-focused projects and distils some key lessons for evaluators to take forward in their work.

As things stand, PWDs struggle against many odds: their human rights are regularly violated and they are often excluded from social and community activities. PWDs frequently encounter obstacles that prevent them from deriving full benefits from a range of public services, including education and HIV and related sexual and reproductive health services. These difficulties are often deep-rooted and wide-ranging: education and health providers might lack knowledge about disability issues or have misinformed or stigmatising attitudes towards them. Similarly, schools, clinics and hospitals may be physically inaccessible, lack sign language facilities or fail to provide information in alternative formats, such as Braille, audio or plain language.

Itad and disability

Recently, Itad has contributed to international development efforts to support Disabled People’s Organisations’ (DPOs) attempts to ensure PWDs have a say in initiatives that seek to improve service delivery in a way that responds to their particular needs. Notably, Itad has been part of DFID-funded programmes in Nigeria that supports the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), as well as State and local chapters of the association, including individual DPOs.

At present, Itad is providing specialist monitoring and evaluation (M&E) advice to the Strengthening Citizen’s Action Against the Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C) in Nigeria programme (2017 – 2022). SCRAP-C is delivered by a consortium led by ActionAid, which seeks to influence and interrogate the social norms and attitudes that help corruption thrive in Nigeria, with a view to affect meaningful social change. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), including DPOs, have joined these efforts by organising campaigns and citizen engagement activities on anti-corruption. Itad’s support will help to determine the reach of these activities and assess the effectiveness of interventions in terms of creating desired behaviour change.

Itad also contributed to the Mobilising for Development (M4D) programme (2012 – 2018), which was implemented by a consortium led by Palladium. The overall aim of M4D was to ensure policy makers and service providers in three Northern Nigerian states are more accountable and responsive to citizens. A core approach of the programme is to strengthen the institutional capacity of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), including those of PWDs, to better engage with policy-makers and service providers. Itad inputs helped to demonstrate impacts, results and evidence of interventions, as well as ensure a well-functioning result management system, safeguard quality and build capacity.

In Jigawa State, M4D support led to the passage of the Persons with Disabilities bill into law in February 2017. M4D supported the advocacy efforts of PWDs, the State Rehabilitation Board and the legislative committee responsible for the bill, to get the Executive Governor’s assent. Expected to benefit more than 30,000 PWDs in the State, the Law has provisions against discrimination (with accompanying sanctions), as well as access to education and health services, and issues of work and employment. The Law also has a provision for a Disability Fund to support projects and programmes for PWDs.

Earlier on, the programme supported PWDs across implementing states, to conduct a census of PWDs. This census helped to enhance cooperation among PWD by providing accurate figures to their governments to enable them to better plan for PWDs. According Salisu Shehu, Secretary of JONAPWD in Ringim LGA of Jigawa State, “Initially, we had a problem of cooperation, but with the support we received from M4D, we are now able to organise ourselves and work together towards our common goals. We are beginning to get the attention of the local government authorities since we are organised.”

Itad was also one of the core consortium members of the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI) (2008 – 2016). SAVI aimed to improve citizens’ ability to claim rights and hold state governments accountable by supporting projects implemented by Civil Society Organisations, supporting independent monitoring, research and policy analysis, and strengthening the functions of State Houses of Assembly. In addition to cross-cutting inputs on governance and approaches to working with civil society, Itad provided technical inputs on M&E, knowledge management, communications, value for money and advocacy.

SAVI’s work with the Lagos State Civil Society Disability Policy Partnership (LCSDPP) led to the passage of the Special People’s Law in 2011. The Jigawa M4D initiative learnt from Lagos, meaning that the Lagos Law has provisions against discrimination (with accompanying sanctions), and supports access to education, health services, work and employment. Importantly, this also ensures physical access to public buildings. The Law also has a provision for the establishment of the Office of Disability Affairs (ODA) to oversee implementation. In October 2016, the Lagos State Government inaugurated the governing board of ODA and a disability trust fund of N500million (about £1.2million)

Three lessons we’ve learnt along the way

  • “Nothing for us without us”: This is a phrase used by PWDs that symbolises inclusion. In all of Itad’s projects, primary stakeholder inclusion is a recurring and necessary theme. For PWDs, it is even more pertinent as “who feels it knows it all!” Therefore, it is crucially important that PWDs participate in the process of defining success in relation to solving the issues that they face, which we have also found highly rewarding. This requires capacity development to support PWDs to recognise the critical issues relating to their inclusion and integration into society.
  • Perceptions matter: A frequent obstacle to successful M&E support in these projects has been how PWDs are perceived by the society, which influences how PWDs see themselves. A common practice is for other citizens to see PWDs with ‘charity lenses’, that is, seeing PWDs as victims of circumstance who are deserving of pity. This contrasts with the social model that recognises disability-related problems as socially-created issues, i.e. matters that demand the full integration of PWDs into society and deserve to be resolved collectively. When these two views are compared, we find that the social model is better able to prevent the discrimination of PWDs by others, improve self-esteem amongst PWDs and positively impact on their willingness to be involved in M&E activities.
  • Better support: Relatedly, when we began work with the PWD community, we discovered that these perspectives on integration really do determine the acceptance of PWDs by others. At first, progress proved fairly challenging, but with an increased understanding of the social model of disability and the building of better relationships across the PWD community, other citizens began to be more supportive of PWDs and consciously included them in their activities. Importantly, this included activities related to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of basic services, which then made our support easier and more targeted.

In retrospect, capacity development is important – this can be at the level of DPOs and PWDs themselves. This has the potential to allow a paradigm shift away from the charity or medical models of disability towards a social model, which demands the full integration of PWDs into society. Indeed, capacity development allows DPOs to organise themselves, engage with each other and the broader PWD community, as well as engage with others. This process therefore enables PWDs to better articulate, report and document activities that relate to them. On their part, PWDs require the necessary confidence to articulate and prioritise issues that affect them, then negotiate these as part of their participation in the economy and society more generally. Critically, PWDs should be able to reflect on how developmental activities have impacted their lives through participatory and utilisation-focused M&E activities – something we can all learn from.

 

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