AGENDA Interview with Filipino Disability Rights Advocates

Updated: March 2019

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 the Philippines is available below and has been edited for clarity.


Interviewer: We are currently in the middle of the AGENDA training on Strategic Communications and Advocacy for Regional Disability Inclusion in Jakarta, Indonesia, which is running from the first to fourth of November 2018, and I am very pleased to have some of the participants here with us to be interviewed. Would you mind introducing yourself? 


Gina: Hello, I am Gina Rose Balanlay from NOVEL or the Nationwide Organization of Visually Impaired Empowered Ladies.


Interviewer: Hello, Gina. 


Jennifer: I am Jennifer Garcia. I am from the Philippines from the Regional Association of Women with Disabilities in the Philippines. 


Interviewer: Nice to meet you. From this training, maybe you can share with us here what are the insight and knowledge you gained, especially what types of skills that is required when we are telling about the implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan. 


Gina: Answer to the skills that I am realizing after this the third day of the activity. First, the soft skill training and the hard… you have to be ready emotionally because an advocate, it is not easy to advocate, it is not easy to engage with the government and other stakeholders. So, you want to be equipped emotionally and at the same time, you have to be ready in terms of the abilities, for example, communicating skills are very important.


Interviewer: What type of adversity that you mentioned here, what is the hardest part of dealing with the government and the other stakeholders? 


Gina: There are government agencies, in terms of am convincing them, they don’t agree immediately, so it takes time for them to convince. So, for us to convince [them], we have to make some strategies, and that’s the very important thing for us to know, in order for us to be prepared.


Interviewer: [to Jennifer] And what about you? 


Jennifer: I agree with her, and additionally, an advocate must also be aware of the public administration system and the different mandates of government implementing agencies. That is very important because you also have to know the budget system, what are the programs and services anchored to the mandates  of those government agencies. Likewise, it is also important that you have the masterplan itself so that if you are going to send, you know, a proposal, it would be easier for the government to understand it that this masterplan is really a need so that each country would contribute to the NOVEL advocacy in ASEAN.


Gina: The budget process… we have to know where to get the budget so that if the government would say “ Oh, OK, we will support you, but we don’t have budget right now,” at least we know where [there are] other resources we can get.   


Jennifer: It is also good that an advocate would be aware of the procurement system in the different implementing agencies and likewise it should be also... well first, with the UNCRPD, particularly the general comments, and as well as the other human rights and you know international cooperation, as well... Well, it is also good that an advocate would be aware about the funding relationship. 


Gina: So in addition to that, an advocate should also be an expert, not only of the CRPD as well as the SDG. No one will be left behind. 


Interviewer: In this training, you have worked with disability rights advocates from across the region of ASEAN. What message do you want your government officer to know about this Masterplan, aside from synchronizing it with the UNCRPD and the SDGs? Did you come up with the better ideas how to propose clear and direct messages? 


Jennifer: Yeah, to come up with a clear message at the same time to present it in a good atmosphere, so that the government will not find it as if you are presenting something that it has to [do]. Actually it has to be done and present it in the way that this should be the great contribution of the country on the this inclusive initiative, you know, you just add it anyway. [laughs] It is good that we have this opportunity to get this training so we will be able to know about the strategy to come up with the clear message and a clear message to the government, to contribute in this Masterplan, and its objective is an inclusive society for all, not only for persons with disabilities actually but for all.     


Gina: I will also share to our government how [leaders with disabilities] across the ASEAN region contributed, how efforts has been exerted for us to make a blueprint that would a somehow beneficial to us for persons with disabilities across the region. 


Jennifer: It is also important that we have learned many different cultures in this training, however, there is only one voice that can be heard, that is to really make the persons with disabilities involved as well as the government agencies, the ministries, and the community as the whole, and coming up with the objective an inclusive society for the next generation. 


Interviewer: By one voice you mean collaboration. Are you suggesting that this caucus is actually very good working group?  


Gina and Jennifer: Yes.


Interviewer: Lastly, would you mind sharing with us… I believe you have learned a lot of insights and knowledge from these sessions, and with your expertise, can you highlight one of the most important things you have learned from other peers? 


Gina: We have different opinions, we have different culture, but our diversity doesn’t hinder our passion, our passion to promote and to actively participate [in] this initiative, which is to launch the Masterplan and to use this Masterplan as our blueprint in promoting the CRPD and SDG for us, for the realization of our rights, not only in our country but the whole ASEAN region as well. 


Jennifer: We may come from the different nations, but our goal is just the same, and we are, we both, all of us have a heart for the advocacy for the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities.


Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time. 


Gina and Jennifer: Thank you.