Tuesday, 4 June 2013

It’s about abilities – UNICEF Indonesia launched the State of the World’s Children report 2013 on children with disabilities

Joining forces with gold medal winners at the Special Olympics and key activists for the rights of people with disabilities, UNICEF Indonesia launched this year’s State of the World’s Children report, together with the Minister of Social Affairs and other government counterparts on May 30th 2013.

“When talking about children with special needs, we often rather think about what they are NOT able to do, rather than looking at what they actually CAN contribute to society,” said UNICEF Representative Angela Kearney during the event at the disability-friendly Ministry building in downtown Jakarta. “This needs to change. Like in many other countries, children with disabilities are amongst the most marginalized and invisible children in Indonesia. Often parents simply hide them away, because they are ashamed or they don’t know how best to support them.”

Angela Kearney with Special Olympics gold medalists, Adi (left) and Stephanie (right)
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2013 / Klavert

Indeed, it is not easy to find data on children with disabilities in Indonesia. Between two and four per cent of all children in this vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and a population of 240 million people are living with a disability of some sort, according to the 2007 health survey RISKESDAS and the 2010 national Census. This translates into some 1.5 to 3 million children aged 0 to 18.

It is even more difficult to gather information on their living conditions, for instance on their enrolment, attendance and achievement rates in primary education. According to the first ever World Report on Disability, published by the World Health Organization and the World Bank in 2011, there is a gap in attendance rates of 60 percentage points between disabled and non-disabled children. UNICEF’s report on Out of School Children (OOSC) from 2012 also highlights disability as a major obstacle for school participation.

“The launch of this State of the World’s Children report is an invitation to our government partners as well as to researchers and academics to look much more in-depth into the situation of children with disabilities,” said Angela Kearney. “We now know that we will only be able to achieve significant progress towards the MDGs, if we focus on the most excluded and deprived children. As one of the most vulnerable groups, children with disabilities therefore need to get our increased attention. UNICEF stands ready to fully support the government in this regard.”

Symbolic handover of the report from UNICEF Indonesia Representative Angela Kearney to the Minister of Social Affairs Salim Segaf Al Jufrie.
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2013 / Klavert

The Minister of Social Affairs, Salim Segaf Al Jufrie stressed that the government is committed to significantly improve the opportunities of children with disabilities to grow up healthy and develop their full potential.

"This is a shared responsibility of families, civil society and the government," said the Minister. The new National Action Plan for people with disabilities which comes into force at the beginning of next year, will put special emphasis on children. He further announced the organization of family fora  in almost all provinces to discuss the needs of families who have children with disabilities.

The government signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in early 2007, shortly after it was adopted by the UN General Assembly. In 2011, the Convention was ratified and incorporated into domestic law.

Dr. Vivi Yulaswati, Director of Social Protection and Welfare at the Ministry of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS) stressed that the coverage of services for children with disabilities is still very limited and that teachers and social workers often are not trained properly. “We also need a change of mind set to move away from the traditional institutionalization to family based care,” said Dr. Yulaswati.

UNICEF was invited to join the development of the National Action Plan right from the beginning.

Adi and his mother proudly showcasing his medals from the Special Olympics
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2013 / Klavert

Two mothers, whose children were born with Down Syndrome, spoke about their children’s many success stories. Both are gold medalists at the Special Olympics. Maria Yustina, the mother of 22-year old Stephanie Handojo, who won the gold medal in breast stroke in Athens in 2011, explained how her daughter managed to become a high-achiever, thanks to dedicated stimulation and support since her early years, and through love and true friendship with other children in her neighborhood. With support from her family, Stephanie now hopes to set up a laundry business, building on what she learned during her vocational training at a hotel.

Ernim Ilyas, whose son Adi won a gold medal in distance jumping appealed to all parents: “If your child has a disability, don’t try to hide him or her away. Behind their disability is an ability that you can and must help grow.”


The executive summary of the report is available for download here.

See more photos from the event on our Facebook page.