Empowering disabled people in Pakistan

A Sightsavers supported project is giving disabled people a voice in Jehlum District, Punjab Province.

In order to give poor and marginalised people the opportunity to be heard, and take part in their communities’ development, the government had set up Citizen Community Boards (CCBs). However, Sightsavers’ partner CHIP (Civil Society HID Program) was quick to realise that disabled people were not represented, and therefore unable to voice their concerns in their communities.

It is estimated that between 5% and 10% of the population of 172 million are disabled. Considering 38 million people in Pakistan live below the poverty line, disabled people face all kinds of barriers when it comes to employment, education and health care. It’s therefore vital that the rights of these people be realised.

Reflecting the need

Research was carried out in 48 villages of Tehsil Sohawa, in the Jehlum District, and interviews were held with disabled people and their family members. This revealed that 92% of people with disabilities were completely dependent on family members, 74% were illiterate and 69% of disabled people in the region were under the age of 40. This clearly demonstrated a need for CCBs to change in order to reflect the needs of their communities.

This Inclusive Development Project therefore seeks to build the capacity of CCBs regarding disability. It’s an innovative project as it uses existing community structures to enable disabled people to realise their rights, and encourage them to take part in the decision making processes that affect their lives.

Including everyone

There are around 30,000 people living in the project area, who will benefit from the improved capacity of CCBs and the extended links to local government in the long term. As the project progresses over 300 disabled people will be trained in leadership and independence skills and 200 local representatives will be sensitised on issues of disability and gender. The project is working to make sure women are included in the CCBs, and where this is not possible it supports women’s groups in demanding rights and services.

Disabled children and their families will also be accounted for. Disabled children’s parents are being made aware of the opportunities available to them regarding accessing education. Often disabled children’s siblings act as carers and as a result miss out on their own education. However, the inclusion work being carried is helping to remove these barriers.

As well as our partner CHIP, which has expertise in social mobilisation and building the capacity of civil society organisations, the project is also being run with Sightsavers’ partner STEP (Special Talent Exchange Programme), an organisation of disabled people that campaigns to promote the independence and inclusion of disabled people in Pakistan.

We hope that this project will offer an invaluable insight into securing the involvement of people with disabilities in development initiatives in the future.

A few words with Muhammad Atif Sheikh

Muhammad Atif Sheikh, president and one of the founder members of Sightsavers’ Islamabad-based partner STEP, answered some questions about this fantastic organisation, and some of the challenges it faces. 

A brighter future

Blind from birth, 14 year old Abdullah never thought he'd get the chance to go to school. But now the future is much brighter thanks to a Sightsavers partner in Pakistan. Read about Abdullah's story here. 

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