Children with disabilities in BiH need equal opportunities

For every child a fair chance

Every child with a disability has the right to inclusion without difficulties”, emphasized Ana Kotur, lawyer and human rights activist, as a special guest at the event “For every child a fair chance”. The event was organised on 11 April in Sarajevo by UNICEF and the Delegation of the European Union to BiH, in cooperation with the Information Centre for Persons with Disabilities “Lotos” and World Vision International.

Following the real life stories of children with disabilities, the workshop focused on the need to provide access to quality inclusive services for all children. This includes early childhood development and interventions, inclusive education, and social protection services. Another priority area is to ensure better protection of children from violence, abuse and neglect.

At the Conference a comprehensive recommendations from the “Situation Analysis of the Children with Disabilities in BiH”, were presented. The analysis produced by UNICEF under the EU funded project, showed that children with disabilities continue to face obstacles and discrimination in different forms. All participants, including children with disabilities and their parents, representatives from government, non-governmental and international organisations agreed on concrete actions so that each child living with a disability is able to get a fair chance in life.

Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of BiH, Semiha Borovac, emphasized the commitment towards reaching the highest standards in the implementation of rights for every child. “The role of the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees is not only reporting to international bodies, but also continuous monitoring of the situation of children rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and advocating for further improvement”, stressed Minister Borovac.

UNICEF Representative Geeta Narayan emphasized the importance of social inclusion for the whole society. “Social inclusion – ensuring all children have equal access to schools, health services, social welfare, etc. –  has benefits both for children with and without disabilities. Through social inclusion children learn to be more compassionate and open-minded about differences. We have to mobilise everyone – children, parents, civil society, government actors, decision-makers and everybody else, in order to realise the rights of every child in BiH,” said UNICEF Representative Geeta Narayan.

The Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to BiH Melvin Asin stressed the EU commitment in improving the situation of children with different abilities in BiH.  “I am confident that the findings and recommendations from the Situation Analysis of Children with Disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, produced by this project, will be one step further in ensuring the rights of the children with different abilities in BiH.  A systematic solution for ensuring an equal access to health services and education to children with different abilities should be introduced throughout the country.  Also, it is vital for the benefit of the child and the parents to timely receive the right type of assistance – it is our duty to help them”, said Asin.

In April 2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina received a set of recommendations based on its Report submitted in 2016 to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, the latest analyses, as conducted by UNICEF and World Vision International, confirmed the alarming status of children with disabilities in BiH. Both entities in BiH have adopted strategies for the improvement of rights and status of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, children with disabilities and their families still face discrimination, their rights are often not fully met, and they still face limited access to basic services, including non-inclusive education. This project is funded by The European Union and implemented by UNICEF in several countries, in order to protect children from violence and to improve the social inclusion of children with disabilities in the Western Balkans. In cooperation with the European Disability Forum (EDF), the Information Centre for Persons with Disabilities “Lotos” from Tuzla, as well as with organisations of persons with disabilities and Associations of Parents, the intention is to streamline unified advocacy efforts of Disability Persons Organisations to improve the rights of children with disabilities in BiH.