Afghan Disability Rights Conference: From Policy to Programming

Audio Available:

Introduction

Introduction section image The Embassy of Afghanistan logo. Circular shape with Afghanistan National Mark shown in gold.
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Welcome Letter

Dear Disability Rights Supporter and Friend of Afghanistan,

 On behalf of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the U.S. Council on Disabilities, the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, we warmly welcome you to the Afghan Disability Rights Conference: From Policy to Programming. 

 We are here because we want persons with disabilities to have every opportunity to succeed and live a full life, and we know the commitment required on the government and NGO levels to make that a reality. The Afghan government has made disability rights and protections an issue of national priority, thus we have the opportunity to make real and lasting progress.

 As a follow up to the first National Conference for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) held in Kabul at the Presidential Palace last fall, this conference will highlight progress and challenged in the disability sector, as well as pursue practical approaches for making inclusive education, public healthcare, vocational training and employment opportunities realities for Afghans living with disabilities. 

 Aiming to create a cross-sector dialogue for practical solutions, the goals of the conference are to: 1) raise awareness of disability issues in Afghanistan; 2) consolidate support, and generate ideas and plans for practical implementation of states policy commitments, and 3) provide an opportunity for networking and sharing knowledge.

 Over the next two days, we will consolidate the collective experiences and ideas that all of you contribute to document pragmatic steps forward that improve the lives of people with disabilities in Afghanistan. Thank you again for being here, and for being part of this journey!

Sincerely,

Hamdullah Mohib
Ambassador, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Washington, DC

Phyllis Magrab
Executive Director, Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Development, Vice Chair, US-Afghan Women’s Council

Isabel Hodge
Deputy Director, US International Council for Disabilities

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Message from the President of Afghanistan

"ADDRESSING THE NEEDS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES AND ENSURING THEIR RIGHTS ARE NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT PRIORITIES. THE GOVERNMENT OF AFGHANISTAN IS COMMITTED TO CHANGING THE CURRENT SITUATION OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES, AND WILL TAKE ALL NECESSARY ACTION TO PROVIDE THEM THEIR RIGHTS AND ENTITLEMENTS.” 

- PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI, OCTOBER 2016

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Afghanistan and People with Disabilities

Afghanistan has many challenges to overcome as it works to recover from years of war and turmoil. In the area of protections and assistance for Afghans living with disabilities, there is much progress of which to be proud, but much work remains. 

Afghanistan is a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and has a constitution that assures the protection of the family and child, and service provision for people living with disabilities (Articles 53 and 54). According to Handicap International's 2005 National Survey on Disability in Afghanistan (NDSA), there are over 1 million people living with a disability in Afghanistan.* Even though the legal framework exists, still most persons living with disabilities in Afghanistan suffer from social, economic, and political marginalization, as highlighted in the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF) presented at the 2016 Brussels Conference on Afghanistan. Both children and adults face steep hurdles at nearly every turn: when they try to enroll in school, when they seek integration into their society, when they need healthcare or rehabilitation services, when they try to access public spaces, and when they try to find a job. 

Nearly three percent of Afghanistan’s approximately 22 million people have a severe disability (NDSA, 2005) – a disproportionately high number for such a small country. Children and adults face steep hurdles at nearly every turn: when they try to enroll in school, when they seek integration into their society, when they need healthcare or rehabilitation services, when they try to access public spaces, and when they try to find a job. 

President Ashraf Ghani convened Afghanistan’s first National Conference on Persons with Disabilities at the Presidential Palace in October 2016. More than 400 representatives from the government, international donor partners, NGOs, and civil society attended, as well as people with disabilities from all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. The conference resulted in substantial contributions to policy development in the areas of health and rehabilitation services, education, economic empowerment and employment opportunities, and access and gender inclusion. The conference also contributed to the development of the Afghanistan National Disability Action Plan (ANDAP), a five-year strategy to implement government policies that support persons with disabilities. 

*The most recent figures available are from the National Disability Survey conducted in 2005. Though more accurate figures would reflect the population increase over the past 12 years, they are currently not available. 

Meanwhile, the progress that dozens of Afghan and international NGOs have achieved over the decades is substantial--their work has improved the lives of thousands of Afghans. Health and rehabilitation services have increased, educational and professional opportunities are being created, awareness is building, and accessibility is improving. 

But much more needs to happen. Afghanistan has a strong legal foundation in place that addresses the rights and protections of people with disabilities, as well as an experienced civil society who have developed successful models of service delivery and programs throughout the provinces over the decades. Recently passed laws and international agreements make discrimination and exclusionary practices illegal and provide for inclusion and accommodation in many aspects of life. The Council of Ministers and Presidential cabinet recently approved an initiative to create a new independent directorate for people with disabilities. 

Moving forward, a collective focus on pragmatic ways to implement existing laws is needed. Improvement in three areas is critical: 

1) Making Afghanistan’s school system inclusive of all children; 

2) Increasing the level of rehabilitation services available throughout the public healthcare system; and 

3) Making vocational training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities the standard, not the exception. 

Afghanistan aims to learn from what has worked in other countries that have integrated their own citizens with disabilities. International organizations as well as local grassroots Afghan organizations that have worked in this field for decades are also essential partners. 

Nearly 5 percent of Afghans live with a disability. (NDSA)

20 percent of families have at least one member with a disability. (NDSA)

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Students at Ghazi Mohammad Khan Jan School

Five Students walking down stairs with two females in front holding white canes. Photo Credit: SERVE
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Teacher signing with student

Teacher using sign language with a young student. Photo Credit: SERVE
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COUNTERPART International logo

Counterpart International with woven circular weave icon
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USICD Logo

United States International Council on Disabilities
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CCHD Georgetown University Logo

Center for Child and Human Development Georgetown University
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US Afghan Women's Council Logo

United States Afghan Women's Council with US and Afghanistan flags
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A Foundation of Legal Rights and Protections

Afghanistan has taken legal steps toward becoming a country where people with disabilities have the necessary protections, assistance, and access equal opportunities. 

Afghanistan is a signatory to the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Mine Ban Treaty, and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Convention. 

 The Law on the Rights and Benefits of Persons with Disabilities requires that three percent of jobs in the government are reserved for individuals with disabilities. It also captures an important non‐discrimination principle:  

 “Individuals with disabilities have the rights to participate in social, economical, political, cultural, educational and recreational aspects, without being discriminated against.”

 Article 84 of the Afghan Constitution mandates the appointment of at least two people with disabilities as representatives in the national assembly. 

 Article 53 of the Afghan Constitution declares:

 “The state shall adopt necessary measures to regulate medical services as well as financial aid to survivors of martyrs and missing persons, and for reintegration of the disabled and handicapped (persons with disabilities) and their active participation in society, in accordance with provisions of the law.”

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Peer Supports Photo

Two Afghani women talking to a young boy in a wheelchair who appears to be a landmine survivor.
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Accessibility for All Photo

Two men in wheelchairs going down a ramp next to a set of stairs.
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Goal: Make Afghanistan's Schools Inclusive of Children with Disabilities

Nearly 200,000 school-aged children have a severe disability. (UNDP via Pajhwok)

 73 percent of children with disabilities are not in school. (National Disability Action Plan 2008-2011)

 70 percent of persons with disabilities above 6 years of age have not received any education. (NDAP 2008-2011)

 Living with a disability should never disqualify a child from attending school. Without an education, a child almost certainly faces an adulthood of dependency and poverty. Afghanistan needs special needs teachers, modifications to existing school buildings so children with mobility issues can access the facilities, essential textbooks in Braille, and much more to ensure that children with disabilities get the education they deserve.  

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Teacher interacting with child

Teacher in classroom with instructional material displayed on the wall demonstrating with his hands to a child.

Photo Credit: SERVE

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Goal: Increase Public Health Services to Better Serve Persons with Disabilities

62 percent of people with disabilities reported difficulties when trying to access health care. (NDSA 2005)

 47 percent of Afghans with disabilities have difficulties moving around inside the house; 38 percent have difficulties getting dressed. (NDSA 2005)

 All people deserve independence. Persons with severe disabilities often lose their independence due to limited mobility, function, or vision, and with that loss can come an even tougher blow: loss of dignity. Restoring independence and dignity to persons with disabilities is a priority for Afghanistan. The country’s public health system has improved significantly in recent years but many more specialized caregivers and clinics that focus on physical rehabilitation, prosthetics and orthotics are needed.  

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Man learning about his prosthetic leg from a medical professional

 Afghan man in hospital being fitted for a prosthetic leg by a medical professional.

Photo Credit: SERVE

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Goal: Improve Vocational Training and Employment Opportunities

70 percent of Afghans of working age who have a disability are unemployed. (NDSA 2005)

 Afghanistan passed a law requiring that 3 percent of all government jobs be reserved for people with disabilities. An effort to revise the law to include private sector jobs is currently underway. Unfortunately, a lack of education and vocational training opportunities means most people who would qualify don’t have the necessary skills. Denying persons with disabilities the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family is a form of discrimination that the Afghan government is determined to eliminate.

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Man typing on computer keyboard

Man typing on computer keyboard with visible landmine injuries. 

Photo Credit: Reza Sahel, Afghanistan Landmine Survivors Organization. "Landmine couldn't destroy my ability"

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Steps Forward

"Afghanistan has made an important start with existing disability rights legislation, but is still at the beginning of its journey to design and implement impactful public programming.

The theme of this conference is ‘From Policy to Programming’ with the aim that collective discussions generated over the next two days will address these overarching questions:

What are the steps forward to implementing policy and legislation on disability rights in the form of programming that improves the lives of persons with disabilities?

In what ways can civil society and government work together to achieve the common goal of creating a more inclusive society, specifically in the three areas the conference is focusing on: primary education, public health programming, and employment opportunities?

In what ways can grassroots advocacy and initiatives feed into national level action?"


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The Embassy of Afghanistan would like to Recognize and Thank Our Partners for Helping to Make This Possible

Special thanks to Thomas Conway and the University of Hawaii for making our materials accessible by application.

Special thanks to SERVE Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Landmine Survivors Organization, and Rayhab Organization for contributing photos. 

Special thanks to Rayhab Organization for producing the films

Logos included for US International Council on Disabilities, US Afghan Women’s Council, Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Development, Counterpart International, and TriVision.

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Window of Hope Photo

Three children using the swings at a playground.
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Wheelchair basketball game Photo

Wheelchair basketball game being played with eight players.

Photo Credit: Window of Hope. And Reza Sahel, ALSO.

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Information

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Washington, DC
2341 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

www.afghanembassy.us

@Embassy_of_AFG

Facebook.com/embassyofafghanistan

202-483-6410

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Afghanistan Embassy in United States Logo

The Embassy of Afghanistan Washington DC logo in a circular shape with the Afghanistan Flag positioned in the upper half and the United States Flag in the lower half. The words "The Embassy of Afghanistan Washington DC" displayed on the outer edge.
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Video Presentation Captions

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Behind the Wall! Episode 1: Inclusive Education

Organization of Rahyab Rehabilitation Services for the Blind (ORRSB) presents

Behind the Wall!

The following images appear as a montage while a man recites a poem: 

A hand writing on piece of paper; men in workshop making bags, girls walking down a sidewalk, young people clapping along to a song, a young man with his foot chained to a tree in a courtyard, images of people in a workshop making prosthetics, a young woman uses her mobile phone with her foot, a young man with cerebral palsy climbs a rocky ledge wearing a school bag, boys and girls in a classroom signing with their teacher, smiling and playing with blocks, three young children laying down watching TV in their home, a young woman holds a makeup brush in her mouth and applies makeup to a woman’s face, a little boy with cerebral palsy walks with a wooden walker, a man signs, children in a classroom, children swinging, girls playing and laughing on a playground, young boys playing ball on a playground and signing to one another, blind children walk in a line, holding canes. 

And here I am,

With tired hands!

That have been broken, either by the wrath of nature!

Or by the anger of brutality

Yet my hands remain wide open

Not to beg for mercy and sympathy,

But to seek collaboration,

In order to pave the way

And here I am!

With painful feet,

Pierced, either by the wounds of nature,

Or by savagery of barbarism

But yet unstoppable!

And steadfast along the way!

And here I am!

Anticipating glances of the truth,

That they may see me as I truly am,

And not see me how they think of me.

And listening for the sounds of harmony.

And here I am!

With a tired body!

And from time to time, broken-hearted by disappointments,

Or from facing inequalities

Yet, inexhaustible, patient and keen,

For glimmers of hope!

Hope!

The only living and immortal concept!

The only excuse for “being”

And here are you!

Whom I call!

Purely and intimately!

To hear your inward whisper!

That springs from this screen!

See? Hear? And answer “yes”?

A black screen and the title “Episode 1: Inclusive Education”

A boy with cerebral palsay, Masih, looks out his living room window silently at his forthcoming trek down a rocky mountainside to school. 

Masih walking down the mountainside to school.

Children studying in Jamal Mena High school in Kabul.

Aziza Qorayshi, the school’s principal, faces the camera in her office, and says:


We have a student with physical disabilities

but he has a good mind.

He can understand the subjects very well. 

And he has studied here from first grade, up to now—9th grade.

And we are happy and pleased with him.


Images of boys leaving school as Sadeq Mohibi, UNMAS Advisor to the Deputy Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled, says:

Education is the main foundation for individuals to become employed and empowered.

Unfortunately we have very general statistics and figures at hand,

And according to those, around 196,000 kids are eligible for education; however, those statistics do not distinguish between males and females, nor between categories of disabilities. 

Images of boys waving to the camera and playing in the schoolyard play as Mr Sajeem Pardis, Project manager for disabilities in SERVE Afghanistan, says:

According to the statistics, offered by the Ministry of Education,

And based on the reports produced by NGOs working on the issue,

Only 3,992 persons with disabilities are included in the circle of education, all over Afghanistan.

Three young children are lying on a living room floor watching TV. One little girl stands up, turns up the volume, and sits down again.

Sadeq Mohibi says:

Most families don’t know the extent, to which their children with disabilities can be included in formal education,

Or how to help them be educated within the home,

Or even how to advocate for their children’s right to an education. 

Image of a classroom of girls at Muhammad Khan Jan School in Kabul. 

Muhammad Rajab, principal of the school, faces the camera and says:

We have three students with vision impairments.

Two of them in 7th grade and another one in 6th grade.

But they come and study in school just like others do.

And the teachers ask them questions and teach them their lessons,

just like they do to other students.

And these students are really active.

Image of the visually impaired students descending the steps of the school building and walking 

out of the school. Images of young boys and girls playing a ball game and signing to one another at the playground of the Afghan National Association of the Deaf School.

A narrator says:

According to the survey, conducted by The Handicap International (HI) in 2005, there are estimated to be 40,000 people with hearing impairments all around Afghanistan.

Only 5 schools are active in all around the country for this category of disabilities.

According to The HI survey in 2005, between 30,000 to 40,000 people are estimated to have intellectual disabilities. But no serious effort has been done so far, to make them educated and rehabilitated.

Masih is seen walking back up the mountainside after a day at school. He stops to speak to his neighbor.

Neighbor: Masih! Why did you get off from school so early today?

Masih:

Early? Just did so.

Neighbor:

Why?

Masih is seen reaching home, taking off his socks and shoes, and sitting down in the living room to drink water. 

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Behind the Wall! Episode 2: Health and Rehabilitation

Organization of Rahyab Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind (ORRSB) presents

Behind the Wall!

Episode 2: Health and Rehabilitation

A young woman using arm braces cleans a room with a broom.

Sadeq Mohibi says:

Disability is one of the priorities in The Basic Package of Health services (BPHS), and The Essential Package of Hospital Services (EPHS),

And also disability and physical rehabilitation has been included in other documents and strategies of Afghan MoPH,

But the issue is that they are seriously lacking implementation.

Images from the International Committee of the Red Cross Aliabad hospital in Kabul shoe doctors teaching amputees how to walk in new prosthetic legs.

Dr. Esmatullah, a physiotherapist at the ICRC clinic, says:

When patients come to us, we decide which type of artificial limbs to provide for them, considering their type of disability, so that they can be able to walk with these limbs.

Images of two young men with intellectual disabilities walking in the courtyard of a family home. A man, presumably their father, helps them sit down. He then ties the older boy’s ankle to a chain attached to a tree.

Sadiq Mohibi: 

Even the available centers across our country are working just to meet their own beneficiaries’ needs, and do not offer all the rehabilitative service packs in an appropriate way. For example, there are limitations and shortages in services, such as occupational therapy, independent living skills, and assistive hearing devices. There are also a shortage of physiotherapists in centers and hospitals, a shortage of physical rehabilitation specialists, and on the other side, unfortunately most of these services are provided in big cities, and not in rural areas.

Image of a little boy playing on the floor in his home, his wheelchair behind him. His father, Yusef, a judge, says:

We went to several healthcare centers, 

But unfortunately we found no center that was able to treat a child like him,

So that he could be more empowered and solve problems on his own.

Image of three small, smiling children with cerebral palsy, sitting in their living room, speaking to the filmmaker, who is off screen.

Filmmaker: 

Dear! What’s mom cooking?

Rice?

Child: Rice!

Filmmaker: 

How nice!

 Zakaria, the father of the three children, is seen helping his children walk with assistive devices in the courtyard. He says:

Our request is that there are healthcare centers to support our children and children like them,

And to help them to solve their problems on their own.

Because we will not live forever to support them,

They must become able to stand on their own feet.

And must not become the responsibility of others.

Images of men learning to walk with prosthesis at ICRC hospital in Kabul.

Jamila Afghani, Deputy Minister for Disability, says:

Fortunately, this year we succeeded to ground some rehabilitation centers in 6 zones of our country,

And we will have physical, psychological rehabilitations, as well as programs for raising capacities and skills, and job-finding programs.

Image of men and women with visual impairments learning to use laptop computers in a classroom.

Sadiq Mohibi says:

Most of the rehabilitative and health services for persons with disabilities in this country, are provided by NGOs and INGOs.

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Behind the Wall! Episode 3: Employment and Vocational Training

Organization of Rahyab Rehabilitation Services for the Blind (ORRSB) presents

Behind the Wall!

Episode 3: Employment and Vocational Training

Images of a blind man speaking into a microphone in a radio studio, as Mr. Ahmad Hanayesh, Director of Kahkashan Media Center, says:

When he asked me for a job, and spoke to me on the phone, from the way he spoke, and also based on his capabilities in activities as a trainer, I found out that he has a very high level of capability. Since then, I trusted that he would be a good candidate to work with us.

Nangyalay Noori, a grade 10 student, who is visually impaired and works for the Kahkashan Media Center says:

My vision impairment was caused by a mine explosion. I wanted to learn journalism. I entered this media center in early 2014. And I have been working for the Kahkashan Media and Civic Society Center (KMCSC) up to now.

Images of Nangyalay at work in the radio studio as Ahmad Hanayesh says:

And now you see that, Mr. Nangyalay, who is a member of our team, is one of the most outstanding figures, which nobody could have imagined.

Nangyalay, speaking into a microphone on live radio, says:

Hello and welcome to you, dear listeners, and fans of our show…


Images of a woman making prosthesis, and men making wheelchairs, at the ICRC Hospital in Kabul. Images of Abdul Baqi Baryaal, an Afghan Senator who is blind, at work in his office.

Narrator: 

In article 22 of the Afghan Law of Rights and Privileges of persons with disabilities,

It is mentioned to allocate at least 3% of the employment opportunities of governmental departments to persons with disabilities,

And also in The National Priority Program (NPP), between 3 to 5% of vocational training opportunities were given to people with disabilities.

But the main problem is their implementation in our governmental departments.

Jamila Afghani, Deputy Minister of martyrs and disabled, faces the camera and says:

Unfortunately in the field of disabilities, challenges are more than we can see. 

Even there is no good mechanism of job-finding for these persons. 

Images of men and women with disabilities at work at the Sema Bag Factory in Kabul. Ali Yarwar Hoshman, CEO of the factory, says:

In 2014, the Community Center for the Disabled (CCD), and USAID helped me in activating this project. That was for 1 year, and during that year, I was able to train 30 people with disabilities, to help them become self-supporting.

And it went very well until the end of 2015, when I had around 60 employees.

But unfortunately, when Kunduz city temporarily fell to the insurgent, and also because of on-going battles in that province,

A break-down happened in the labor market there and generally in the economic situation in Afghanistan, which affected by business badly.

Rubaba Mohammadi, a young woman with cerebral palsy who paints with her feet, is shown drawing a portrait with a pencil in her mouth. She says:

I would like to sell my drawing works and use its money in helping people with disabilities. 

I want my voice to be heard by all, but nobody has heard it yet. 

Sadeq Mohibi:

Of course, I think that, most of the problems are from people’s attitudes-- officials’ and employers’ attitudes who view people with disabilities as incapable. 

We need to change this perception.

Images of men with disabilities making bicycles in a factory.

Image of a young woman, Moshtari Danesh, an activist for persons with disabilities in Parwan province, walking upstairs with the aid of braces on her arms. She says:

Currently, I am a member of the Educational Government of Youth.

An entrance exam was held by this youth organization in all 34 provinces,

Which I passed, and I chose three positions in three fields: 

The Attorney General,

The Ministry of Higher Education,

And the Independent Election Commission.

We will be selected based on our qualifications, and work experience. 

I have prepared plans for each of them.

Moshtari is seen getting in a car and driving herself down the road. 

Little girls are seen swinging high in the sky on a swing set with a blue sky in the background.

Narrator:

And the walls will breakdown this way—through effort and hope!

Credits:

Many thanks to:

Mrs. Lael Mohib, spouse of Afghan Ambassador to the US, for sponsoring

Jamila Afghani, Deputy Minister of Martyrs and Disabled of Afghanistan

Abdul Baqi Baryaal, Senator in the Upper house of the Afghan National Assembly

Wakil Ahmad Suhail, head of Martyrs and Disabled in Parwan province

Sadiq Mohibi, disability affairs advisor

Ahmad Hanayesh, media and civil society activist


ICRC Kabul staff, for giving us permission to film in the ICRC Rehabilitation clinic

And thanks to all who help us in producing this documentary film.

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Believe in me!

Organization of Rahyab Rehabilitation Services for the Blind presents

Believe in me!

Image of a blind man being assisted by a woman stamping a paper in an office. Image of the same man signing.

Narrator: And this is my voice, Hidden in the commotion of the storms of the age! And amongst autumn leaves, Hear! See! And perceive!

Images of a man descending stairs with a cane, a man walking through the streets of Kabul city with a cane, a man who is a double amputee cleaning his car window, children with intellectual disabilities in school with their teacher. 

Hussain Ahmadi (a person with physical disabilities, and also an activist on the rights of people with disabilities, sits with his baby daughter in his lap facing the camera) says:

I have been working in the field of disabilities for around 5 years, in a variety of areas: advocacy, raising awareness, peer counseling, and branch management of the Afghanistan Landmine Survivor’s Organization in Bamiyan province, and in the field of capacity-building and raising awareness on the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, advocacy on the law of rights and privileges of persons with disabilities, cooperation with the government and NGOs in the field of employment and entrepreneurship, and also regarding healthcare, and other problems that people with physical disabilities have been facing. These are my activities. 

Sakeena, a middle aged woman with vision impairments, graduated from grade 12, in her kitchen cooking, says:

I was born with vision impairments and am totally visually-impaired. When I graduated from grade 12, because of economic problems, I could not continue my education to a higher level. Some years ago, I got married and we lived together for 7 years. He would always insult me. At last, I could not stand his bad behavior and decided to leave him and get divorced.

Sharif, a former Afghan Army soldier who lost his legs in battle, cleans the window of his taxi cab:

It was the 1st day of the Feast of Sacrifice. I went to work, which was from 4AM-8AM. It was 20 minutes till 8 when I was thrown into the air by a landmine, and I lost both of my legs. It’s been 4 years since that event, and I have received no benefits from my government, or from my fellow countrymen. If I were a soldier in another country, defending that country, then I think I would be respected. I think other countries respect and help their disabled veterans.

Abdul Ghaffar Mohmand, Chairman of the Afghan National Association of the Dead, sits in his office with a young man next to him and a young woman voicing his signs:

In our society, people are not aware of persons with disabilities, or their rights, that is why they are harassing them, and the person with the disability, whether man or woman, always hears: “You are disabled” or, “Something is wrong with your body,”or, “You are incomplete.” In this way, people with disabilities are harassed. Their rights are not fulfilled. For example, Most people think that people with hearing impairments, are foolish people who understand nothing. And for this reason, we are always suffering, Our friends with hearing impairments are always disappointed by our fellow people.

Hussain Ahmadi:

Disability is just a limitation. It is not a defect, or an inability, And we should never call it a burden.

Children with intellectual disabilities appear in a classroom playing with blocks while a song called ‘Capability’ is being played, sung by the ORRSB music class children. 

A special education teacher appears, teaching a child named Kabir with alphabet cards. 

Teacher: Kabir, dear! What are you doing? Are you studying? Kabir, dear! Grape! Find “grape”! Bravo! Get it in your hands! Give it to me! Bravo! Splendid! The ball! Give me the ball!

Now the teacher talks to another student, Baset:

Baset! Find “key”! I’m not telling you, Kabir. I’m telling you, Baset.

Key! Key! Splendid! Bravo!

Hussain Ahmadi:

Our request from the government is to have an accurate view of the rights of persons with disabilities, and to implement its responsibilities toward these persons, in accordance with the laws and regulations. Disability is not inability. It is a social limitation. 

A blind man walks through the streets of Kabul with a cane to a vegetable vendor and buys some cucumbers. Sharif, the double amputee war wounded veteran, comes down a flight of stairs, and gets in his taxi cab and drives away.

A black screen appears as the narrator says:

Fulfillment of the rights of persons with disabilities, in accordance with international conventions, and national laws and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is our request!

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First Lady of Afghanistan


Office of the First Lady of Afghanistan government emblem appears on a blue screen and the following is typed onto the screen:

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Office of the First Lady

First Lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani appears facing the camera, wearing glasses and a white veil, with the Afghan flag in the background and reads a message.

Office of the First Lady of Afghanistan government emblem appears on a blue screen and the following is typed onto the screen:

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Office of the First Lady

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Saeeda Etebari

A young woman, Storai, in a blue veil appears in a workshop, working with small pieces of stones. 

Storai and Saeeda are sitting next to one another on a wooden bench in their work aprons. 

Saeeda and Storai appear in the workshop looking at pieces of jewelry and discussing jewelry designs sketched in a notebook.

Storai and Saeeda appear on the bench again together and Storai signs to Saeeda, who smiles and nods.

Saeeda and Storai again in the workshop signing to one another and looking at jewelry designs. 

Saeeda seated at a desk inlaying small pieces of emeralds into a gold necklace. 

Saeeda signs the following, holding up a gold necklace with long gold tassels:

“These long bits here are like raindrops falling from the sky, like little drops of water.”

An image of a rainy Kabul street and the courtyard of Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul.

Saeeda reappears on screen and signs the following:

“I like the rain. Even when it falls heavily, I feel like I could go swimming, and I feel happy.”

She smiles. 

An image appears of Saeeda swinging on a swing set, smiling. 

Filmed by Lalage Snow and Saeeda Etebari

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