Persons with disabilities from the global South met Anne Sipiläinen and Judy Heumann in Finland

(<--Ms. Anne Sipiläinen, the Undersecretary of State in Finland, is on the back in the middle surrounded by the Abilis coordinators from the global South.) Abilis Foundation had a one-week-seminar during this week with its coordinators from 11 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mozambique, Nepal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The partner organization from Somaliland was not granted a visa and could not participate to this seminar. I am going to be in charge of evaluation of Abilis Foundation for the coming 3 years, and I joined four sessions of the seminar. The first is the visit to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs when the international coordinators met with Anne Sipiläinen, the Undersecretary of State in charge of development cooperation and development policy. She took one whole hour to listen to advices and experiences of working with persons with disabilities. Everyone in the meeting was given the opportunity to express one’s experiences and suggestions to the Ministry. After each suggestion, she deeply showed her interests and expressed the importance to disability rights. On the basis of my own research experiences, I suggested the Ministry to pay attention to 1) the ownership of persons with disabilities in its both top-down and bottom-up development cooperation activities, and 2) the prerequisites for persons with disabilities in the global South to be able to access development cooperation activities including Abilis Foundation. I also added the importance of research to remember in this area! It was very encouraging to have witnessed that the person of that high rank in the Ministry was interested in meeting the international guests of Abilis Foundation. Secondly, I facilitated the discussion on evaluation in the field of disability. The coordinators gave advices to what I should pay attention and on what kind of indicators could measure impacts in this particular field. Thirdly, I gave a lecture with Rea Konttinen on human rights-based approach to disability and development.
Fourthly, the Abilis Foundation invited us all to the farewell dinner and Judy Heumann joined us as the guest of honor. She is here in Finland to advocate for disability rights. Today she met among others the President of Finland and the Foreign Minister. She also spoke in the Parliament seminar prior to this dinner on the importance of paying more attention to disability rights. Finland has been enjoying to host these important international guests and been creating momentum to disability rights to be mainstreamed. I sincerely hope that the series of events will lead to political will and leadership to respect, protect and fulfill disability rights not only in Finland but also in its international cooperation. (--> Ms. Judy Heumann, the Special Advisor of International Disability Rights in the U.S. Department of State)