Building Inclusive Communities

3rd International Family Forum

Family Forum in ColombiaOn Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 March more than 200 participants gathered in Cali, Colombia and 680 joined in via the Internet for the Third International Meeting of Families. Building Inclusive Communities = stronger communities. What is missing!

The event was sponsored by Inclusion International, Open Society Foundation (OSF), COMFANDI, Fundación Saldarriaga Concha, The Family Network for Change, Asdown Colombia and Down Family Foundation.

The conference opened the debate on how to build a better society to ensure more and better opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, their families and their organizations

Participants, mostly parents, shared local experiences about the main themes of the conference such as the role of families, self-advocacy, inclusive education, supported decision making and early childhood. They identified barriers, discussed possibilities to move forward, shared experiences and knowledge and shared tools for families to build a better future for their children and for themselves. Inclusion International distributed the Spanish version of its report on life and inclusion in the community

Among the activities, the play by self-advocates on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ¨ My Rights Your Rights- Just a fairy tale or a Reality”, had a huge impact.

In the context of the implications of a “Life and Inclusion in the Community, a reflection from the everyday life perspective,” International experts like Steven Eidelman, Bruce Udistky and Allen Anderson shared their knowledge on

  • Issues of employment for people with intellectual disabilities
  • Implications of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on deinstitutionalization
  • Changes required from family organizations and self managers, service institutions and government agencies.

Raquel Jelinek, President of Inclusion Inter-Americana and Director of CONFE Mexico, talked about their own experiences in Mexico;

Constanza Alarcon Coordinator of Strategy Zero to Always by the Presidential High Commission for Special Programs, explained in detail the national Strategy Zero to Always, in which the Family Network for Change has been invited to participate, after its successful campaign “Invisible No More” which included the image of a child with disabilities to show the government’s commitment to this group.

Luz Angela Artunduaga Charry also joined us from UNICEF Colombia who began her presentation by saying “UNICEF is indebted to people with disabilities ….”

Margaret T. Ensign Martinez, Deputy Director of Restoration of Rights from ICBF, listened to what the experts had to say about children, adolescents and adults with intellectual disabilities who are currently in institutions, paid for with government funds and what the implications of the ratification of the CRPD by Colombia in May 2011 means on this matter.

It is events like this and the content of the presentations that show the mobilization of families and organizations in the country in search of a better life for themselves and their family members with disabilities.