Disability Inclusive Local Governance: Practices and Challenges in Nepal

Perspectives and Challenges Surrounding Disability Inclusion

Author: Nir Shrestha - Contact: Contact Details
Published: 2023/05/06 - Updated: 2023/12/01
Publication Type: Paper / Essay
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Nir Shrestha writes on the topic of Disability Inclusive Local Governance: Practices and Challenges in Nepal. While ordinary people and government officials, including elected representatives and civil servants, had varying perspectives on disability, most local representatives treated persons with disabilities as weak and dependent individuals instead of active citizens Although persons with disabilities may be fewer in number and dispersed, this is not a valid reason to overlook or give less priority to their issues in the annual plan and budget.

Main Digest

Introduction

The 2015 Nepalese Constitution established Nepal as a Federal Democratic Republic with one federal government, seven provincial governments, and 753 local governments. The constitution delegated 22 powers to local governments, including the protection of marginalized communities such as persons with disabilities. Despite the fact that persons with disabilities make up 15% of the global population, with 80% residing in developing countries like Nepal, only 1.94% of Nepal's population is officially recorded as having a disability according to the 2011 census.

During my academic research practicum, I had the chance to visit Bidur municipality in Nuwakot district for a field study. Based on my observations and interviews with various individuals, this article provides details my findings. I was fortunate enough to speak with elected officials, municipal staff, representatives from organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs), and members of the media.

Perspectives and Challenges Surrounding Disability Inclusion

During my research, I discovered that while ordinary people and government officials, including elected representatives and civil servants, had varying perspectives on disability, most local representatives treated persons with disabilities as weak and dependent individuals instead of active citizens. There was a lack of recognition of persons with disabilities as human diversity and right-holders, and many representatives still believed that placing them in institutions was the solution. This indicated a need for more awareness and sensitivity among local representatives about the rights of persons with disabilities and their roles and responsibilities in empowering and protecting them, as mandated by relevant laws and policies.

While obtaining a disability ID card was the first step in accessing government services for persons with disabilities, I found that many authorities considered distributing these cards as the only significant duty of the local government. During my field visit, I observed that the distribution program was functioning smoothly, but I could not identify any significant initiatives by the municipality to empower or mainstream the disability community. The government has a larger responsibility to protect persons with disabilities beyond issuing ID cards, as they face numerous obstacles and barriers in their daily lives. However, these aspects were being overlooked by the local government. I also found that social development was not a priority for most elected representatives. Although some representatives tried to emphasize it, they were unable to allocate the necessary budget. One representative stated that the focus was usually on needs such as roads, irrigation, and water supply, and that most representatives were not aware of or serious about social development issues.

Although persons with disabilities may be fewer in number and dispersed, this is not a valid reason to overlook or give less priority to their issues in the annual plan and budget. Regrettably, representatives have given less attention to the disability sector as it may be challenging to produce tangible outcomes or results from the investment. This neglect or low priority of the municipality towards the disability sector is also evident in the actions of the local government. Local governments are at liberty to design policies based on their specific context, which in turn guides them to develop a plan of action and allocate the requisite budget for specific sectors. However, in my field study, I discovered that local governments tend to disregard such issues. The budget allocation for the disability sector was based on the demands of organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs), but even that was not enough. While local representatives have not prioritized the disability sector, OPDs have mainly focused on token-based activities, instead of advocating for long-term planning, policy formulation, overall development, and empowerment of the disability community. In partnership with various OPDs, the municipality conducts activities like awareness-raising, capacity-building training, vocational training, and assistive device distribution. Nevertheless, these events take place only a few times a year and only after frequent demands from OPDs. It is encouraging to find that persons with disabilities are treated respectfully when accessing services from the wards/municipal office. However, existing infrastructural and communication barriers continue to impede their ability to deliver services effectively.

Need for Advocacy and Long-Term Planning

The disability movement's guiding principle of "Nothing About Us Without Us" highlights the importance of meaningful participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all processes. However, OPD leaders and persons with disabilities feel that this principle is not being upheld by the municipality. Despite elected representatives claiming to have made efforts to involve persons with disabilities, most OPD leaders report never being engaged, consulted, or invited to participate in local-level planning and policy development. Additionally, some leaders noted that their programs were not included in the annual plan and budget, even after submitting them to the municipal assembly.

The situation described is not unique to Bidur municipality, as similar circumstances can be observed in many other local governments. Therefore, it is imperative that local governments take measures to improve institutional development, programs and services, and communication and advocacy systems to promote disability-inclusive local governance. In order to achieve this goal, accurate research and data disaggregation on persons with disabilities is essential. Additionally, the municipality must develop its own specific policies and plans of action for the disability sector. It is crucial that all local representatives and municipal staff receive training to develop a comprehensive understanding of disabilities. With this knowledge, the municipality can allocate its budget and plan activities to empower and integrate the disability community.

References

Bhattarai, P. (2019). The New Federal Structure in Nepal: Challenges and Opportunities for Quality Governance.

Blind Youth Association Nepal (2020). Nepal and Disability.

Law Commission Nepal (2019). The Act Relating to Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2074.

Rohwerder, B. (2020). Disability Inclusive Development - Nepal Situational Analysis.

World Health Organization (2011) World Report on Disability.

Nir Shrestha

Nir Shrestha is a passionate campaigner for youth and disability rights and currently holds the position of Program Officer at the Blind Youth Association Nepal, where he strives to create a more inclusive society for individuals with disabilities. He is also pursuing a master's degree in Conflict, Peace, and Development Studies from Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal. Through his studies, he is deepening his understanding of how to promote peace and development while advocating for the rights of marginalized communities. His activism is rooted in several key areas, including disability inclusion, digital accessibility, youth leadership, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). He is committed to raising awareness and promoting positive change in these crucial areas.

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Cite This Page (APA): Nir Shrestha. (2023, May 6). Disability Inclusive Local Governance: Practices and Challenges in Nepal. Disabled World. Retrieved April 16, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/blogs/local-governance.php

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