Count Me in: Working Together for Disability Inclusion in Guatemala

The organization “Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores” during one of their awareness-raising performances. Credit: Diana Alvarado (@alvaradodii) and Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores, UNDP
  • Opinion by Peride Blind (guatemala city)
  • Inter Press Service

People with disabilities are diverse, and they experience exclusion and marginalization in different ways and to different degrees.

About 1 in 10 Guatemalans has a disability. That’s one out of every ten neighbours, friends, relatives, co-workers, passers-by, or distant strangers.

You might think that ten per cent of the population would get some recognition. But the country has little data on persons with disabilities, making them less visible in public policy and often left with little or no access to basic services in health, education, work, among other areas.

Some people might think that providing such services is a charitable gesture. What that perspective ignores is that persons with disabilities are people, and as such they have human rights.

Fulfilling the human rights of persons with disabilities requires certain steps so that they can participate and be fully included in society.

The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Guatemala recognizes this basic principle. We are a proud pioneer of the Disability Inclusion Strategy of the Secretary General and a two-time implementer of the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

To advance our work in this area, we at the UNCT in Guatemala recently conducted an in-depth analysis of disability inclusion in the country. Through interviews, focus groups, and surveys, we identified some concrete gaps and challenges, for example in terms of the legal and public administration system. Our ultimate goal: end exclusion and leave no one behind.

Here’s what we found, and what we’re doing about it.

  • DATA: Persons with disabilities are not consistently included and counted in mainstream data collection. This hampers access to important information about the quality and access of persons with disabilities to key services, thus leading them to be further excluded from already precarious social protection systems for example. To help correct this situation, the UNCT in Guatemala will, in the next two years, will support measures to create a national database of persons with disabilities and how mainstream data is gathered and utilized.
  • RESOURCES: The National Council for the Attention of Persons with Disabilities (CONADI) has a mandate to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. But their budget is very limited so the UNCT provides additional training to boost the capacity of organizations of persons with disabilities to help ensure they can support CONADI and lead the way on inclusion.
  • PRACTICES: The more that the many forms of exclusion and discrimination are rooted out, the more room is made for the positive inclusion of persons with disabilities. With this aim, the team in Guatemala supported the creation of the first Consultative Council of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities bringing the urban and the rural together, with a gender focus. The Council, once operationalized in 2022, will vet all projects and programmes of the UN System in Guatemala to ensure inclusion and accessibility.
  • COMMUNICATIONS: Noting the importance of persons with disabilities advocating for their rights, the UN Team in Guatemala launched a fifteen-day communications campaign #YoMeSumo prior to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021. Each day of the campaign features the story of a Guatemalan with disability and how they are advocating for their rights. See all the videos on our YouTube channel.

The UN Team in Guatemala believes in leading by example. Having recently signed our first UNCT-wide non-discrimination declaration, all 22 members now encourage persons with disabilities to apply in their job vacancy announcements and have adopted the practice of hiring personnel with disabilities.

In 2021, the UN Team provided additional training on disability inclusion to staff to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment. To this end, the UN Guatemala carried out a review of employment practices and office accessibility, and adopted a Manual on Accessible Communication.

In all these efforts, the UN Team is fostering collaboration between the UN, government, and persons and organizations of persons with disabilities.

Antonio Palma, the UN Volunteer, has long dreamed of working at the world’s most influential human rights organization. He is excited to help shift perceptions about persons with disabilities in Guatemala from within the UN by using strategic and inclusive communication.

Working together, we may increase inclusion and unity. Antonio Palma offers his vision for building unity: “All Guatemalans are one, regardless of any differences.”

Adds the UN Resident Coordinator in Guatemala, José Miguel Barreto: “COVID-19 has taught us yet again that we all need one another. The world is more beautiful, more secure, and more just when everyone is included, including persons with disabilities. Each one of us can do something to make that happen.”

Source: UNDP

Peride Blind is Strategic Planning officer/RCO Team Leader, UNCT in Guatemala. The article was written with editorial support from Paul VanDeCarr, Development Coordination Office. To learn more about the work of the UNCT in Guatemala, visit:

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service