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People with disabilities deserve more than a single day

December 3, 2012


The World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) teams in Morocco held a joint event to mark the International Day for People with Disabilities.

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.

" Developing partnerships, raising awareness, giving time and volunteering were the core values the event celebrated. These are values that should illuminate every day of the year. "

Joumana Cobein

IFC Principal regional officer for the Maghreb region

Following the event, participants visited the Mohammed VI Center for Handicapped Persons and met with the center’s staff and beneficiaries who range for four to 18 year’s old. Participants were inspired to see the efforts that will insure these young Moroccans grow up to be fully integrated citizens. There was general agreement that although they had specific needs, they also have constitutional rights, and meeting them was a social responsibility that touched everyone. The day concluded on a happy note, with entertainment and the distribution of educational gifts for the children at the center.

The Moroccan private sector and the government are engaged in promising examples of supporting the economic integration of people with disabilities.  Important next steps will be to make all public institutions like government buildings and public transportation, accessible to people with disabilities”, said Said Sekkat, President of the Corporate social responsibility Commission within the Private sector organization, CGEM. 

But in answer to the question can we do something about it? … “Yes we can” was the conclusion of the day.