Policies for disabilities remain disabled

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It comes down to better coordination between ministries and departments

Women and children with disabilities are, in a way, doubly disabled in society. 

In respect to the world’s population, 15% have some form of disability, while in Bangladesh 9.07% — according to Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2010 — are persons with disabilities.

To address this vulnerable population, the government does not have an inclusive social protection policy or program for people with disabilities and thus is yet to be developed.

Due to poor awareness, stigma, discrimination, and inaccessibility — persons with disabilities are less likely to access skills and employment, according to a study by Access Bangladesh Foundation (ABF).

The fear could be confirmed from the inadequate allocation for a person with disabilities, which is 2.19% of the safety-net, only 0.21% of the total budget.

There is no system of maintaining disaggregated social protection data by gender and disability, lamented Albert Mollah, an Ashoka fellow and executive director of ABF.

The inherent weakness is the absence of specific indicators on disability in the Development Results Framework of the country’s seventh Five Year Plan, except the education program.

On the other hand, nearly 90% of children with disabilities are not enrolled in schools, though the Bangladesh literacy rate stands at 73.2% according to the Bangladesh Sample Vital Registration System, July 2018 data.

Underling the status of a person with disabilities, the development targets will definitely be severely dented.

Bangladesh has major challenges ahead to achieve disability-related goals, and the target of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is considered, a successor to Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The overarching principle in SDG is “Leave No One Behind” and the cost of exclusion of persons with disabilities in Bangladesh is 1.7% of the GDP. The government assessed that an additional amount of $928.48 billion would be required for FY 2017-2030 to implement the SDGs in Bangladesh.

There are seven explicit references in seven targets under five goals to persons with disabilities, like education, employment, reducing inequalities, inclusive cities, and data collection.

Even without any such references, all goals and targets will be applicable to persons with disabilities because of the overarching principle of leaving no one behind.

When data for the population with disability remains confusing as different authorities use different methodologies, it will be difficult to determine the deliverables: 9.07% (Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2010), 6.94% (Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2016), 1.41% (Census of 2011), 1.70 % (Disability Information system till August 2019).

In another example, the extreme poverty rate dropped to 12.9% in 2016 from 44.2% in 1991 but there is no study on how persons with disabilities have been addressed in this situation.

Possibly the most challenging issue is the lack of coordination among the ministries and departments to achieve SDGs. 

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, and recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award.