Children with disabilities in the Philippines face social stigma. Most people treat them differently. They are called unfriendly names and words which do not show respect. They are not understood in their own communities. Not all parents know that their kids are supposed to go to school, some even hide them from society, while some deny that they have disabilities. This means they do not receive proper care and support.
Save the Children Philippines, in partnership with the IKEA Foundation, is working to raise awareness of disability and providing access to quality education for children with disabilities. Children in the areas of Taguig, Pateros and Paranaque receive rehabilitation, therapy and equipment they need to help them.
The project has a holistic approach and works with teachers, village officials, parents and healthcare providers to increase their skills and resources to support children with disabilities. Also, children are engaged in child-friendly awareness-raising activities through storytelling and video documentaries.
I believe the project has grown beautifully over the past five years. Children are now advocating for greater inclusivity in their schools. They are taking the initiative to conduct storytelling sessions themselves, raising awareness about non-discrimination among their fellow students. The local policies of barangays (villages) already have a focus on children with disabilities. Disability organisations and parents of children with disabilities are taking the initiative by having children’s issues represented in local government committees.
There has been a lot of progress in the five years the KASALI project has been running, but there is much more to be done for inclusive education to thrive and succeed in the Philippines. Seeing the efforts of both the community and our local partners, I’m confident that with the systems established and champions empowered, this progress will be continued and sustained, for the fulfillment of the rights of all Filipino children, with or without disabilities.