The first year of ENIL’s project in Belarus, implemented in cooperation with Mental Health Perspectives (Lithuania) and the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities (Belarus), is now over. During the year, a series of trainings were organised for Belarus civil society representatives, aimed to build their capacity to advocate for social inclusion and empowerment of disabled people. To ensure that people from all parts of the country have equal opportunities to take part in the project, the training sessions took place in all six regions of Belarus – Minsk, Grodno, Vitebsk, Mogilev, Brest and Gomel.
Two were the main training topics in 2016 – project development and networking. ENIL prepared and conducted the trainings on networking, which aimed to foster a better understanding of networking, as a powerful tool for raising awareness and challenging stereotypes and prejudice towards disabled people, and to build participants’ capacity to advocate for social inclusion and independent living. Several case studies, of formal and informal independent living networks from different parts of Europe, were also presented and discussed.
The training sessions were a great experience as ENIL met many people, committed to working for building an inclusive society for everyone in Belarus. The concept of ‘independent living’ was new to many of the participants and discussions often focused on how independent living policies can be promoted and implemented in Belarus. Some people were concerned that the specific political situations in Belarus had a strong negative impact on the potential of civil society to influence disability policies and practices. However, there were some promising developments in 2016, when it comes to independent living and the rights of disabled people in Belarus. In October 2016, the Belarus government ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which opens new opportunities for civil society representatives to work together to ensure national policies are in line with the Convention. In 2017 ENIL will continue to work with civil society representatives from Belarus on issues related to independent living, deinstitutionalisation and fundraising.
The project ‘Empowering Belarus CSOs to Advocate for Social Inclusion and Promote Participatory Decision Making for People with Intellectual or Psychosocial Disabilities in 6 Regions of Belarus’ is funded by the European Union.