To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Australia Awards in South and West Asia is reflecting on its experience in making the activities in the region more inclusive.
In keeping with its commitment to empower future leaders, Australia Awards delivery in South and West Asia has and continues to encourage people with disabilities to apply for Australia Awards Scholarships and Short Courses and has introduced several initiatives to support and engage past and current Australia Awards recipients with disabilities. Since 2013 Australia Awards – South and West Asia has supported over 27 people with disabilities in the region through Scholarships, Short Courses and professional development opportunities.
At the recent Australia Awards Scholars Forum in Canberra, Rajuna Singh, a Scholarship recipient from Nepal living with a disability shared her positive experiences on living and studying in Australia, highlighting the support provide and the opportunities that have opened up through Australia Awards scholarships. Meanwhile, Australia Awards – Bhutan employed a sign language interpreter when it interviewed a candidate who is hard of hearing. Yeshi Gyeltshen subsequently received an Australia Awards Scholarship and is expected to commence his Masters in 2019 at the University of Melbourne, specialising in Deaf Education.
Three Australia Awards scholars from the region were featured by CBM Australia in their campaign to mark the International Day of People with Disabilities ‘Don’t Underestimate Me.’ In the video, Dr Samitha Samanmalee (Sri Lanka), Nupur Nurunnahar (Bangladesh) and Md Jahidul Islam (Bangladesh) talked about breaking barriers and demonstrated that disabilities cannot stop them from achieving success.
During the launch of the #MyInspiration Campaign by Australia Awards – Pakistan, Asqa Ali spoke about what inspires her and the changes she wishes to drive in Pakistan. As an outcome of the Regional Alumni Workshop 2016 under the theme ‘Education for All’, alumni published journal articles in a special edition of the International Journal for Inclusive Education. In Nepal, Nar Bahadur Limbu shares an inspirational story of a change maker in Nepal’s disability sector. He also received a grant from the Program as part of the regional Alumni Innovation Challenge in 2017.
Other initiatives undertaken by Australia Awards – South and West Asia to provide a better experience for people with disabilities include;
– an illustrative video on the application process to help potential applicants – including those with different learning styles and disabilities,
– a set of custom designed disability brochures, considering accessibility and screen reader technology, to promote Australia Awards to people with disabilities,
– Disability Initiative Grants were provided in Nepal to support initiatives implemented by Australia Awards alumni that positively impact and improve human rights and dignity of people with disabilities,
– Australia Awards – Bangladesh also recently interviewed English test providers to understand their policies and practices on providing reasonable adjustments to people with disabilities.
– DFAT’s recently published Development for All: Evaluation of Progress Made in Strengthening Disability Inclusion in Australian Aid features a case study on an Australia Awards Short Course for South and West Asia regarding inclusive education (page 43, box 13). The case study highlighted how the Short Course helped broaden participant knowledge of inclusive education to improve capacity and bring about changes needed for disability inclusive education policies and practices. The participants, who were from Nepal’s Ministry of Education and its line agencies, reported that the course had helped broaden their understanding of disability.
Australia Awards support is tailored for each person with a disability and their requirements, to set them up for success and to ensure ‘do no harm’ principles are observed.
A short video by CBM Australia to Mark the International Day of People with Disabilities 2018. The video features three Australia Awards scholars from South West Asia and it highlights stories of people with disabilities who have been underestimated and are defying low expectations. (video featured at the start of this article)
Australia Awards contribute to the long-term development needs of Australia’s partner countries in line with bilateral and regional agreements. In South and West Asia, Australia Awards are open to suitably qualified nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, through a range of modalities – including Australia Awards Scholarships, targeted Australia Awards Short Courses, Informal Learning Opportunities, and professional development and support for alumni. An important area of focus for Australia Awards in South and West Asia is the empowerment of women and the inclusion of people with disability and individuals from disadvantaged social groups.