First Lady Hayrünnisa Gül attended the Mid-term Review Conference of the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan for 2006-2015 held with the partnership between the Directorate General of Social Cohesion of the Council of Europe and the Presidency of Administration for Handicapped.
Delivering the keynote speech at the conference which representatives of the Council of Europe and international organizations as well as academicians and specialists attended, the First Lady shared her pleasure to be with the participants in Istanbul, the junction of Asia and Europe.
Istanbul, the 2010 European Capital of Culture, she declared, has inspired artists with its beauty and historical richness for centuries and noted that people with different languages, religions and races have lived in harmony and peace for ages on this soil which has hosted a number of civilizations throughout history. She welcomed her audience, saying, “I welcome all the participating guests to this special city where diversities are regarded as richness!”
HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL
Asserting that humanity has always made efforts for a more just and equal world, Mrs. Gül said: “One of the biggest gains at the end of this strife is basic rights and freedoms. Human rights, regardless of any kind of difference, are what one is entitled to from birth. These rights are protected by international conventions and the domestic laws of countries; on the other hand, albeit being developments achieved in theory, there are still a number of problems in practice. We are aware of the fact that there is much more to do for the rights of such vulnerable sections of society as women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities,” and she further shared her sadness about the fact that it is impossible to altogether ameliorate the situation these people with disabilities are in.
“The people with disabilities have to cope with other obstacles as seek to exercise their basic rights and freedoms. Among these obstacles is that the society has a stance of casting out all other human profiles while conceiving the model of a “normal person”, which is why we can still see in this modern world that these people with disabilities are confined to their homes and made to not appear in public!” exclaimed the First Lady, underscoring that the view which regards these people as victims who need to be protected by keeping them separated from the public for whom they are burden has become outdated.
NEED TO IMPLEMENT THE NECESSARY LAWS
Today, the First Lady also indicated that the issue of the people with disabilities is directly related to human rights, noting: “It would not be incorrect to say that ignoring the problems of the people with disabilities and leaving them to their fate by segregating them from the society are violations of human rights. It is not one’s own choice to be born or live with disabilities. What falls upon us is to remember that everyone can facethe possibility of being handicapped, putting ourselves in their places and approaching their problems sensitively. Recently, the amenities for these people with disabilities have been ameliorated in our country, making remarkable progress to assure the rights for them to lead an honorable life.”
She further drew attention to the necessity to implement the relevant laws and to raise public awareness and stressed that both the state and NGOs have great responsibilities in this regard, informing her audience that they have actualized the social awareness project in terms of education of people with disabilities.
EDUCATION ENABLES CAMPAIGN
Mrs. Gül, referring to the Education Enables Campaign, conducted with the cooperation between the state and NGOs, proclaimed that it is the most comprehensive project for the handicapped. “The campaign firstly aims to help those with disabilities to continue their education at those institutions, raise public awareness that disabled people can be educated like those without disabilities and that they can be active in every segment of society. It also aims to raise awareness in the people with disabilities themselves, their parents, teachers, directors, other local administrators and the whole of the society by making them believe that disabled people can be educated at the same schools in the same environment together with those without disabilities,” she declared.
As vitally important as raising social awareness, the First Lady pointed out, is providing the educational institutions particularly and the whole of the social environment with the necessary facilities, which she said, is the other leg of the project.
INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF THE DISABLED CHILDREN RECEIVING EDUCATION
As part of the project put into practice last April, Mrs. Gül stated, 81 governors visited the homes of the children with disabilities and informed their families about the education opportunities that the state offers them, saying: “Some 27,000 families have been visited. Seminars have been held in 2,500 schools and teachers have been informed. I am glad to say that in 1.5 years, 45 schools and 1,200 special classrooms have been established; thus, the number of the children with disabilities served has increased by 45%.”
“SERIOUS AND GALLANT STEPS MUST BE TAKEN”
The First Lady also proclaimed the Council of Europe Disabled Action Plan for 2006-2015, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe toward protecting the rights of the people with disabilities and urging their full participation in society, to be one of the most significant international documents prepared in recent years.
Despite the considerable advancement that some member states of the Council of Europe have achieved toward the resolution of the problems of the people with disabilities, the number of the countries that have not been able to accomplish as much is not negligible. “We still need to take serious and courageous steps to enable the people with disabilities to enjoy their rights equally as others do. Therefore, I am calling on the member states of the Council of Europe to implement the Disability Action Plan for 2006-2015 without delay. Let me underline another issue. We are going through an economic crisis deeply affecting a number of countries. This crisis touches everyone, but the vulnerable segments of the society such as women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities are being affected the most. Therefore, I am of the opinion that international institutions and all countries must approach these segments sensitively and take the necessary precautions to prevent their already harsh life conditions from getting harder,” she evinced.
Offering her special thanks to Lokman Ayva, the AK Party deputy from Istanbul, First Lady Hayrünnisa Gül said Mr.Ayva, with his great studies both in the country and abroad, has an important role in raising the living standards of the people with disabilities and their families.
The First Lady also extended her thanks to the Presidency of the Administration for the Disabled for hosting the conference, and to State Minister Selma Aliye Kavaf and to those who have contributed to the preparation and implementation of the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan for 2006-2015 on behalf of all the people with disabilities.