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Supporting the disabled in Georgia

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, December 4
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs and the Parliament of Georgia observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the Radisson SAS Iveria Hotel on December 3.

David Lomidze, Deputy Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, greeted the guests and thanked all the local and international Government or non-governmental organisations involved for their active participation in the traditional annual report about their activities. “This year has been special, with important achievements and serious activities aimed at the eradication of poverty and the employment of people with disabilities in Georgia,” Lomidze stated. He stressed the importance of the resolution adopted by the Parliament of Georgia on December 2, 2008 about the social integration of people with disabilities and the signing of the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People on June 10, 2009, designed to eradicate extreme poverty amongst the disabled. “The Government of Georgia has done lots of things to support these people despite the difficult financial situation after the August War, but more is still to be done with the support of local and international donor organisations,” he concluded.

Leslie Wilson, Director of Save the Children Georgia, called this event “a very important gathering”. “I am very new to Georgia. After two months in the country I am truly humble to have this opportunity to lead a partnership of Georgian and international organisations to fight for, and advocate for the rights of, disabled people, especially children with disabilities. We should work hard to ensure the rights of all Georgians, including people with disabilities, who especially need protection and care,” Wilson stated.

Joakim Parker, the Acting Mission Director of USAID, spoke about the importance of Georgia’s active cooperation with the international community. “It’s important that Georgia marks the Day of People with Disabilities. Many people in Georgia still live in isolation as a result of cultural pressure and the way this society functions. All people have a right to participate in a country’s political, cultural and economical development,” he said.

Giorgi Tsereteli, Deputy Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, stressed the Georgian Government’s active support of people with disabilities. He spoke of the obligations the Government of Georgia has taken to protect them and encourage them to integrate with the rest of society. “I have the honour of saying that different local and international organisations have been working hard on developing the strategic action plan to protect these people. Today we start to implement our plans and take full responsibility for carrying out the action plan.”

Irina Kurdadze, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, named the education of children with disabilities as a main priority of the country from 2005 and expressed her gratitude to public schools in Tbilisi and the regions for their active participation in this project. Bruce Curtis, Programme Manager of the World Institute of Disability International, presented information on the small shop making wheelchairs in Georgia which is sponsored by USAID and expressed his hope that all disabled people will soon have an opportunity to go out, live and work without any restrictions.

The event closed with screening of a film by Giorgi Gvishiani called Breaking the Wall, which tells the stories of Georgians living with disabilities.