Transforming Communities for Inclusion: A Trans-Asia Initiative

Transforming Communities for Inclusion of persons with psychosocial disabilities:

A Trans-Asia initiative, April 30- May 4, Pune, India

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has brought new opportunities for qualitative change in lives of all persons with disabilities in the Asian region, with the vast majority of countries ratifying it. With varying degrees of engagement, in few countries, persons with psychosocial disabilities have been involved in advocacy on the harmonisation of policies and programs with the CRPD, often through cross disability coalitions. There is also the feature of new emerging groups or organisations of people with psychosocial disabilities in some countries of the region.

As people with psychosocial disabilities in interaction with existing social and political systems, we are at cross roads. What is our political identity, is it as a ‘user / survivor of psychiatry’, a ‘person with psychosocial disability’, or both? Do we go to health department or to disability department, or both, but taking which issue where?  We aspire to be led by the framework of CRPD, but is Article 12 more relevant in our context, or Article 19, and do we have to prioritise on this? Contrary to popular worldwide faith, there are many countries in our region which do not have a mental health legislation. Our countries also do not have services, and we are at cross roads here also: which way to go, towards law, or towards policy, or both? Towards institutions, towards community development? How do we relate to the broader mental health agenda? We lack some focus on visualising a robust social model; what to substitute a regime of force, with; and what are the alternatives.

The international cooperation agencies such as WHO promote what they think is best, often based on existing legislation and policies in OECD countries and emerging economies, with all-encompassing mental health values, policies and practices system led by health professionals and authorities. While there are been some opening towards users group and how to adapt these systems to take into consideration the CRPD, they are far from compliant and still promote practices that can be highly detrimental to rights of persons with disabilities.

And finally, we have the big question of being able to participate fully and effectively to represent our interests within the larger disability advocacy scenario. In many countries this implies careful but steady efforts to stimulate the emergence and capacity building of self-help and advocacy groups of persons with psycho social disabilities.

Bapu Trust for Research on Mind & Discourse, Pune, supported by the Open Society Foundation, is proposing to initiate a peer exchange program on “Transforming Communities for Inclusion of persons with psychosocial disabilities” to provide the space to people with psychosocial disabilities address some of these questions. An NGO led by a person with psychosocial disability, the Bapu Trust believes that the Asian region provides unchartered opportunities for new policy advocacial measures and new opportunities for the implementation of the UNCRPD particularly Article 19. The scope of the program is broad, including:

1)      To provide a regional platform for people with psychosocial disabilities to create a common vision for advocacy

2)      Through workshops and studies, to develop strategy papers for advocacy actions with respect to laws, policies and institutional relationships in the region for inclusion of people with psychosocial disabilities.

3)      To develop a common vision for pedagogy and practice related to Article 19 (among other related CRPD articles) as a way of transforming communities to include people with psychosocial disabilities in the region.

We envision that through 4-5 meetings over the next 2 years, a group of people with psychosocial disabilities will come together to share our experiences, develop a regional vision and platform for action, develop strategies for both advocacy and grassroots services, and finally, dialogue with key global agencies such as UNESCAP, WHO, and other regional forums such as APDF, DPI, etc. to bring our concerns to them.

We propose to hold the first meeting under this initiative in Pune, from 30th April to 4th May 2013. This meeting will have the aim of:

–          developing a vision on the meaning of implementation of CRPD in our countries and  communities for persons with psychosocial disabilities

–          addressing some of the key concerns of our constituency.

–          Initiate the development of common ground for our  advocacy and capacity building strategies

A core aspect of this first meeting is conducting a Study Tour of ‘Seher’, the urban community mental health program of the Bapu Trust, which has been working since 2005, but has tried to make a ‘CRPD transition’ by facing some challenging questions. Bapu Trust offers this program for  study and peer review, as a way of pooling together new ideas and imagination for the future, on implementation of Article 19.

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