Danish disability leaders visit Mission East in Armenia

Two of the leaders of the disability movement in Denmark recently visited Mission East in Armenia. The visit is part of Mission East’s project "A Healthy Start" with the objective to give voice to the disabled in Armenia who suffer from a high degree of stigma and rarely receive the care they need.

Poul Erik Petersen, Managing Director of the Danish Disability Council (DSI), and Mogens Wiederholt, Manager of The Equal Opportunities Centre for Disabled Persons, were invited to share their experiences from Denmark with the Armenian authorities and disability organisations.
Within the "A Healthy Start" project Mission East has supported the establishment of a Disability Advocacy Group consisting of five leaders from Armenian disability organisations. The group’s task is to establish a national umbrella organisation like the Danish DSI to lobby for the rights of the disabled in Armenia.

"Shame and guilt is often attached to disability in Armenia – something we are luckily past in Denmark," says Mogens Wiederholt about the insight he gained into the situation of the disabled in Armenia.

He agrees with Mission East that a change in social attitudes is needed for the situation to improve. And that the Disability Advocacy Group is necessary to change the negative view towards the disabled and to convince the authorities that there is a desperate need for more resources to support the disabled in areas such as education and health.

"It was inspiring to experience the commitment and the will to change things. And I found that that the participating organisations truly value Mission East and its efforts," Mogens Wiederholt says.

Representatives from the Armenian government and disability organisations will be visiting Denmark in December to learn more about how the Danish disability organisations work.

September 2007