ISLAMABAD, February 16 – The Special Talented Exchange Programme (STEP), a non-for-profit organization working on promoting disability issues in Pakistan has in joint collaboration with SAMAA TV, one of Pakistan’s leading Urdu news channels today held Pakistan’s first ever media sensitization workshop on disability at the COMSTECH Institute in Islamabad.
The workshop was designed by STEP and SAMAA TV with the aim to sensitize the print and electronic media in Pakistan on how to address the need for information about reality of disability. The workshop also aimed at how the media could play a positive role in highlighting the issues of disabled people and educating the communities on how to work towards inclusive development and develop a society which is equal for all.
The workshop was well attended by representatives from the print and electronic media, international development organizations such as Handicap International, SightSavers International and JICA Pakistan and from the Ministry of Special Education. Representatives from the community of disabled were also strongly represented.
Mr., Global Head of BBC Urdu being one of the key speakers, addressed the participants by sharing international experience on how the media based through research and partnerships can educate the society and change the mind-sets of people.
Mr. Amir said “It is our responsibility as one of the key players in developing societies and educating our people through the media platform to enable those who come in contact with disabled people, in whatever capacity, to understand the nature these discriminatory practices take and what can be done to eliminate them.” Mr. Amir further said that “This workshop, which is the first media sensitization workshop held in Pakistan has surely challenged some of the common myths and false distinctions that relegate disabled people to the status of a discriminated-against minority. This only goes to prove how change can come about if you work together and create better understanding and communication between all the society players”. Mr Khan also said that the media should play its role in making disability visible in society, as through visibility such as public services specially targeted for disabled people would generate a trend for inclusive development.
The workshop included a documentary on disability issues under title of “Agents of Change”, made by STEP, which highlighted the daily issues faced by disabled people and also achievers from within the disabled community, who although being physically disabled were working hard to live a quality life despite the daily challenges.
All of the given presentations and speeches had one common factor which was how each sector should play its role in promoting these issues. Mr. Khalid Naeem, DG Special Education shared that more than 7 % of the Pakistani population is facing one form of disability or another. Out of those, 4 % are in the age of schooling but only 1 % of these children are getting quality education. These children are not included in the educational system due to social constraints, behavior and lack of awareness, as most parents keep their children at home thinking they are being protected from the challenges of society. Mr. Naeem expressed his commitment in carrying out other leading initiatives such as this workshop and encouraged all the participants to continue taking part in creating awareness on the issues of vulnerable communities.
Group discussions were also formed with the aim to formulate a declaration of constructive changes which all of the representing sectors can make to their work situations and personal lives. The declaration was endorsed by all of the participants who expressed their conviction that it would contribute to the gathering momentum for change in the social, economic, and political position of disabled people.
Mr. Atif Sheikh, President of STEP said during his presentation that “General awareness of the reality of disability is limited because our society is organized in such a way that disability is treated as an exceptional circumstance that requires special and separate provision, which is often inadequate. Furthermore, it only serves to maintain the divisions and creates lack of understanding between non-disabled and disabled people. I am very grateful to SAMAA TV for taking the lead in providing us with such a great opportunity to interact with Pakistan’s media and voice our concerns. We need to plan more initiatives like these, as the media can play a dynamic role in redefining the meaning of disability, identify changes in work practice and plan strategies to implement change”.
The Media sensitization workshop is part of a partnership programme between STEP and SAMAA TV which aims to jointly work for the empowerment and mainstreaming of disabled people in the society.
SAMAA TV has through this partnership financially supported skill development trainings for disabled people with the aim of improving their craft skills and generate opportunities for income. SAMAA TV will also be the first media channel in Pakistan to launch a website in accessible format for visually impaired persons.
SAMAA TV has also produced specialized programmes on talented disabled youth in Pakistan, so that the public is more aware on the lifecycle of a disabled person and how they may be included in society by facing the disability and create a platform to eliminate the obstacles which makes the life of a disabled person more difficult.