Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services has launched its “Self-advocacy Unit”, which aims to develop work at the level of all schools and branches in the city and raise awareness of self-advocacy and the role of self-advocates. The unit would supervise the representation of the city in self-advocacy activities inside and outside the country.

The unit undertakes the tasks of organizing, unifying and activating self-advocacy efforts, setting policies and procedures, and innovating, developing and implementing initiatives that will develop the work of self-advocacy in the city. It also works on planning and coordinating activities that activate the role of self-advocates at the community level. It also strengthens the role of self-advocates, rehabilitating and empowering them through training courses and workshops, and holding the necessary awareness and organizational meetings.

It also works on finding and developing partnership agreements and direct cooperation with partner institutions regarding self-advocacy activities and innovating, developing and implementing initiatives that would develop self-advocacy work in the city.

The unit supervises the organization of activities that activate the role of self-advocates at the community level, in addition to organizing visits and interactive activities with various community institutions.

One of the unit’s tasks is to organize awareness-raising workshops and activities on the concepts of self-advocacy for groups of self-advocates supporters, parents, and various institutions. The Self Advocacy Unit works with Inclusion International, and Inclusion International in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regarding to ‘Empower Us’ program. In addition to supervising the topic of simplified reading in the city.

H.E Sheikha Sultan Al Qasimi, Self-Advocacy Coordinator in the City, and a spokesperson for the rights of people with disabilities, has confirmed that self-advocates are a group of people with disabilities who can represent themselves and others, lead their countries and demand their rights. She noted that the goal of the self-advocacy unit in Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services is building a community of self-advocates in the region, and attracting people with different disabilities to talk about their challenges. This will be possible by providing workshops on self-advocacy, its goals and aspirations.

She said, “Advocacy, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means general support or recommendation of an issue or policy, and is the activity of an individual or group with the aim of making change”.

She focused on the importance of self-advocacy. Where a self-advocate can speak on behalf of people who cannot protect themselves, lead the movement for change, raise community awareness, and know their rights. Everyone has the right to speak for himself or herself.

She added, “As a representative of self-advocates of the MENA Inclusion Organization, I find it very important to involve organizations in the MENA region in discussions and decision-making at the international level. It is also important to involve self-advocates in this discussions and decision-making”.

Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services has made great steps since it officially adopted the concept of self-advocacy on January 1, 2009. The city hosted seminars, forums and meetings. It incorporated the concept of self-advocacy into the students’ individual educational plan. The city established and activated mothers, fathers and brothers councils. In addition, the city formed a higher council for students in order to achieve the highest levels of communication and participation and interact with the rest of the city’s departments and to address the problems facing self-advocates inside and outside the city and demand their rights.

The city has succeeded in developing the capabilities of self-advocates to exercise their freedom of choice, make decisions, plan programs for their activities in events and trips. They became actively able to participate in competitions and local exhibitions, exercise their right to access technology, support and encourage families through council meetings, organize trips, visits and exchange experiences.

Self-advocacy Yasmine Suleiman, from Al-Wafa School for Capacity Development, said that she is happy to establish a self-advocacy unit in the city. This will enable people with disabilities to claim all their rights.

In turn, the self-advocate Abdul Rahman Mohsen from the Masarat Center for Development and Empowerment, expressed the importance of the unit’s role in conveying the voice of self-advocates in demanding their right to education, health, employment and self-expression.

Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services is a pioneering institution in including, advocating and empowering persons with disabilities in the UAE and the Arab world. This is what its mission states: (We work together to reduce the causes of disability through early intervention and community outreach. We work to advocate, include and empower persons with disabilities through education, rehabilitation and job-placement to be active participants and independent members in their community).

Source: Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services