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Georgia celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities

By Natalie Osipovi
Wednesday, December 4
December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which was established by the United Nations in 1922 and has been observed in Georgia since 1996. On this occasion, the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, made a statement in which he congratulated all disabled people “with special respect.”

According to Margvelashvili, the condition of these people is the clearest evaluation of the face, homage and dignity of the state and society. “I will be the defender of this part of society. My private advisor, who will work purposefully on the problems of disabled people, will soon take a place in the President’s administration. I wish all our disabled fellows health and wellbeing,” Margvelashvili said.

The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, also took a moment and made an announcement on this matter during the event at Radisson Blue Iveria, Tbilisi, with the support of the Coalition for an Independent Life and USAID.

According to him, the disabled are such part of the society for which the government has more responsibility than for others: it is the government’s obligation to create dignified opportunities for them “not to simply exist, but to live”.

Georgia has announced 2013 as the Year of the Defence of the Disabled. “We have already worked out various projects, which will help the disabled to live better and lead a more complete way of life. Some of them are being launched now, but mostly everything will have been finished by 2014-2016. The government expresses the readiness for creating the maximum for our fellows and I believe that we will manage to live as the democratic society deserves,” Gharibashvili added.

The Coalition for an Independent Life has also responded to the Anniversary. The Public Relations Manager and Board member at Coalition, Rati Ionatamishvili, said that the rights of disabled people are not properly protected and the majority of them are hardly involved in public events. Corresponding legislation has to be elaborated, and programs, designed for disabled population services, have to be increased in number and funding.

Ionatamishvili is hopeful that these problems will soon be resolved. Grounds for this hope were suggested last year, when the Parliament of Georgia ratified the Concept Paper on the Social Integration of People with Disabilities, which obliged the Government of Georgia to develop a 3-year action plan on disability.

On the same occasion, vocal-theater studio "Lurja Tskhenebi", rehabilitation center "AISI", NGO "Unity of Purpose" and "Event Organizing Group" hosted a charity concert with the participation of disabled children. During the concert, an exhibition of the works of the disabled was also held. The main aim of this event was the psychological rehabilitation of the disabled. They took a chance of showing their creativity, which will make them feel as a full member of society.

A similar project, “Me Vkhedav Mzes” (I can see the sun) has been launched recently, within the frameworks of which the disabled people would have an opportunity to record some tracks with famous Georgian singers. This project was supported by the Ministry of the Sport and Youth Affairs, musical business company Bravo Records and famous composer and musical producer, Rusa Mortchiladze. The collaborations are now being recorded and by the end of the project, the CDs will be sold in the distributive shops of Bravo Records. The received sum of money will also be destined to the needs of the disabled.

This topic was also discussed in Strasbourg. The reporter of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Carmen Quintanilla mentioned that women and girls with disabilities need special attention, since they are exposed to higher risks of violence, including domestic violence, bodily harm, abuse, neglect or refusal to provide health care, ill-treatment and exploitation.

“The member states of the Council of Europe must show their commitment on the right of persons with disabilities to independence, social integration and participation in the life of the community,” Quintanilla said, adding this will be possible by accepting Article 15 of the European Social Charter and by signing, ratifying and implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol, as well as the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.