Breaking Down Barriers for People with Disabilities in Guatemala
31 August 2023
"My personal experience as an indigenous woman with a disability has been very complicated due to the lack of information, accessibility and opportunities. I have faced many barriers, such as exclusion for being indigenous and a woman with a disability. I have experienced discrimination in different aspects of my life," said Floridalma Bocel Raxtún, also known as Flory.
Flory is an indigenous woman with a disability from the Kaqchike linguistic community, in a rural area of Guatemala. Flory has experienced discrimination and exclusion on the basis of her disability, gender and indigenous origin. Despite these challenges, she works to help improve the lives of other people with disabilities in her community.
“My first volunteer experience outside of my community was a major challenge. I realized that women with disabilities face numerous discriminatory barriers. Being an indigenous woman from a rural area who wears indigenous clothes can also lead to exclusion. However, I discovered that there are organizations and spaces where we are recognized and included," said Flory.
In 2020, Flory began working with the "Collective of Women with the Ability to Dream in Colors," the first organization in Guatemala made up exclusively of women with disabilities. This collective is a leading civil society partner in a United Nations joint program called, "Building the Preconditions to Institutionalize the Rights of Guatemalans with Disabilities," funded by the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) Fund.
This joint program brings together UN agencies, government and civil society to advance the rights of persons with disabilities in Guatemala. It seeks to strengthen the national system for data collection on disability, build the institutional capacity of the government to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and strengthen organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) to participate in law and policy reforms that impact their lives. The joint program is implemented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Resident Coordinator's Office.
In support of these objectives, the program has provided trainings to 62 women with disabilities from rural and indigenous communities in Guatemala. The trainings focused on advocacy strategies for human rights monitoring, using an intersectional approach to promote inclusion, empowerment and leadership and how to engage in monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals. This training equipped individuals with knowledge to recognize obstacles to participation as human rights violations and stand up for change, an agency they may not have had previously.
"Through this UNPRPD joint program and working in the collective, I felt safe and found other persons with different disabilities. I have learned to break down barriers, advocate for inclusion, and work for a significant change in society," Flory shared.
The UNPRPD joint program has raised awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities and in particular, the rights of indigenous rural women and girls with disabilities and how to translate this into concrete changes in policies, laws and systems. Through the active participation of diverse persons with disabilities, significant progress has been made in the implementation of the CRPD. OPD representatives that were part of the trainings now have stronger advocacy skills and technical knowledge to be able to more actively contribute to the development and establishment of the National Independent CRPD Monitoring Mechanisms.
The programme has also created accessible spaces for dialogue and consultation with women with disabilities throughout the country so that they can express their needs and proposals for change in policies and programmes that affect them. This has allowed their voices to be heard and their opinions to be considered.
"It is essential that we are taken into account and that our opinion is heard. Often, others speak on our behalf, but this should no longer happen because we can express our thoughts, feelings, and what we really want," as shared by Flory.
The story of Flory and the joint efforts made by this program demonstrate that true inclusion requires collective action. The UNPRPD Fund leverages the multi-stakeholder approach to joint programming bringing together UN agencies at the country level to facilitate partnerships between governments, OPDs, and broader civil society. Although there is still work to be done, the dedication of individuals like Flory and the support of initiatives like the UNPRPD Fund continue to demand changes to advance the rights of all persons with disabilities.
The UNPRPD Fund is a unique financing mechanism that brings together UN entities, governments, organizations of persons with disabilities, and broader civil society to support the implementation of the CRPD and the disability inclusive SDGs through joint programming, capacity building and knowledge sharing.
Across 87 countries, the UNPRPD Fund has already supported over 93 joint UN programmes, driving significant progress in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities.
This article was first published here. For more information about the UN's work in Guatemala, please visit guatemala.un.org.