How to Bridge the Gap: Austria Promotes the Rights of Persons With Disabilities

The EU-funded project "Bridging the Gap" aims to strengthen the rights of persons with disabilities in developing countries. ADA is currently implementing the initiative in Ethiopia.

"Bridging the Gap" is the metaphorical, meaningful name of a project of the European Union (EU), which promotes the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Paraguay and Sudan. The Austrian Development Agency (ADA) was commissioned by the EU to implement the project in Ethiopia, a priority country of Austrian Development Cooperation. It aims to include people with disabilities more at international and national level. In November 2019, ADA held a training in Gondar, northern Ethiopia, for 20 inclusion officers from government branches in the Amhara region. This is where they will now apply their newly acquired skills to their daily work.

Bridging gaps for inclusive development

80 percent of persons with disabilities worldwide live in developing countries. The joint initiative is a clear answer to international calls for equally accessible and inclusive development cooperation. With “Bridging the Gap”, the EU and Austria are living up to this demand and responsibility. In Ethiopia, "Bridging the Gap" intends to strengthen resilience and social security for persons with disabilities. ADA is implementing the project in the regional states of Amhara and Somali and at federal level. The EU and Austria provide particular support for women and young persons with disabilities.

Understanding dimensions of disabilities

The project advises governments, human rights institutions, stakeholders and international donor organisations on how to implement the rights of persons with disabilities. In trainings and workshops, employees of participating institutions broaden their skills and become more aware of topics related to disability and inclusion.

During the training in November, participants identified barriers that people with disabilities face in their everyday life and analysed language, terminology and legislation related to inclusion. Particular importance was given to gender-based discrimination as women with disabilities are stigmatised in many ways. In role-playing games, participants learnt about the obstacles that persons with disabilities need to overcome every day. Likewise, the spotlight was turned on challenges in gender aspects.

Women drive change

What made the training such a success? Above all, the participation of committed women, some of whom manage everyday life despite living with disabilities. As trained inclusion officers, they are now equipped with the necessary know-how to drive positive change in their work environment. Sara Soltani, ADA’s Advisor for Governance and Human Rights, considers the project’s success and potential an exceptional inspiration and motivation: “After the training, the participants were eager to get started right away. I am glad that 'Bridging the Gap' draws attention to such a crucial topic as inclusion and that it provides concrete advice on how to implement it.