Every year on December 3rd solemn ceremonies honor the International Day for People with Disabilities. It is the one day of the year that we take the time to think about people with disabilities, and listen to stirring speeches and kind words.
But what about the rest of the year? The World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) teams in Morocco held a joint event to mark not just the day but to ask that important question and discuss lasting solutions for the 3 percent of Moroccan citizens with physical disability.
“People with disabilities face the same social and economic challenges every day, and they need more than speeches to overcome them”, said Idir Ouguindi, representative of the Moroccan Association of People with Disabilities (AMH), that participated to the event. Civil society organizations have kept up a steady drumbeat of advocacy with both government and donors, but much remains to be done to improve disabled people’s access to basic services and economic opportunities. With 8.9 percent of the general population unemployed, employment for disabled people is neither an economic nor a political priority. The absence of any social programs that cater to the specific needs of disabled people, with the lack of programs especially acute in rural areas, has left the group deeply marginalized.
The Bank/IFC-hosted event gathered disabled people and their advocacy groups, along with representatives from the private sector, civil society and government to identify successful experiences of integrating disabled people, both socially and economically. The goal of the day was to establish how these successes could be replicated. A further aim was to build new alliances between stakeholders and the World Bank Group enabling us all to advance the integration agenda together.
The Moroccan Association of People with Disabilities (AMH) along with the Moroccan Businesswomen’s Association (AFEM) shared their experience in bridging gaps and helping women with disabilities launch businesses. Showcasing such examples is not only inspiring but critical in the lives of disabled women. Work gives them not only the chance to provide for themselves and their families, but also to be considered an asset to society rather than a burden. For its part the World Bank Group asserted its support for such initiatives and its commitment to promote the integration of disabled people in both its research and the development projects it supports.
This event also called upon our sense of citizenship and altruism: by giving time and support, each one of us can help do something to improve our fellow citizens’ living conditions.