COMMUNITY GROUPS BRING RIGHTS
INTO THE LIGHT
San Estanislao, San Pedro, Paraguay
By Brienne Thomson
Peace Corps Paraguay
T...
Association, started by a local community activist and patient of SENADIS, Juana Gimenez, and
Rotaract, a Rotary Internati...
“We don’t have a dental clinic or specialty doctors,” said
Gimenez. “With the Parent Patient Friend Association, we’re
try...
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Community Groups Promote New Measures for Persons Living with Disabilities

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As a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in San Estanislao, Paraguay, I have been working with the local PLAN International office and have written English and Spanish versions of an article about a Children's Day celebration at a local center for disabled people, the National Secretariat on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SENADIS), that PLAN assisted in giving. The goal of the event was promotion of new services offered by a government agency to disabled people in order to educate and bring to light options to the public, who often times hide and neglect disabled people due to social stigma.

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Community Groups Promote New Measures for Persons Living with Disabilities

  1. 1. COMMUNITY GROUPS BRING RIGHTS INTO THE LIGHT San Estanislao, San Pedro, Paraguay By Brienne Thomson Peace Corps Paraguay Three community groups came together to promote the rights, services and new measures being implemented for persons living with disabilities through a vibrant Children’s Day celebration. Earlier this year, Juan Esteban Aguirre, the Ambassador of Paraguay to the United Nations (UN), expressed that the growing democracy in Paraguay has also given a voice to those with disabilities through a 2012 law augmenting the 32-year-old National Institute for the Protection of Special People (INPRO) to (SENADIS), the National Secretariat on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as an organization with the ability to form and implement public policy. But more importantly, SENADIS has been allotted an independent expense budget, something that INPRO never had. However, public awareness still needs to be raised about the rights of persons with disabilities, including the health and rehabilitation services offered through SENADIS. Civic recognition can also help implement measures being taken toward a more inclusive and accessible education system for disabled children who, according to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, continue to be marginalized and excluded from public services and from society as a whole, especially in the more rural regions of the country. “Paraguay’s general census found that people aren’t treating the disabled as another member of the family. They’re being excluded, not getting the attention they need or their treatments,” said Deicy Aldama Gonzalez, a Field Technician for Plan International. “We’re trying to raise the public consciousness of this.” Recent efforts to promote a more equal and inclusive perspective about persons living with disabilities in San Estanislao, the largest city in the district of San Pedro, came through a collaboration between three community service groups. The trio of Plan International, an NGO working to support the rights of children in San Pedro for 18-years, the Parent Patient Friend Rotaract clowns and kids whirl around for Musical Chairs
  2. 2. Association, started by a local community activist and patient of SENADIS, Juana Gimenez, and Rotaract, a Rotary International youth group, worked together to make Children’s Day a success. The result was a vibrant celebration that left a mix of 350- kids, both from the neighborhood and patients of SENADIS, laughing, smiling and feeling positive community recognition. According to Plan’s Gonzalez, the idea of working with SENADIS was instigated by a study done by Plan’s headquarters, which concluded that people living with disabilities in Paraguay were being left by the wayside. “We want to make this visible to the public because disabled people have rights that need to be recognized,” she added. But it was through the connection between Gimenez and Plan’s Program Unit Manager, Marcelino Prieto, also a San Estanislao Rotary Club member, that the idea to start the Plan/SENADIS alliance should be launched through the national Children’s Day holiday. Prieto reached out to Rotary’s youth group, Rotaract, to take part in the event. "We tried to provide our support,” said Rotaract’s President Oscar Sachelaridi. “We promoted the event on the radio and in the streets, and collaborated with the Parent Patient Friend Association of SENADIS and Plan. Plan financed the event and we were able to lend a hand by entertaining the kids by dressing up as clowns for the day.” According to the Coordinator of SENADIS in San Estanislao, Amado Vera, “Since the original INPRO center was established in 2004, there has never been a party quite as like this.” Fortunately, Vera added, after the passage of the 2012 law forming SENADIS for the over one-million Paraguayans living with disabilities, “The perspective and support for disabled people is improving, but we need more promotion like the Children's Day celebration." And fortunately with this newly formed alliance between San Estanislao’s community service groups and SENADIS, ideas are in the works to augment the modest budget with community activities and charity events to help the center better provide for its more than 2,000 patients. "We are short on professional staff; more physical therapists, more teachers, doctors,” said Vera. “We only have four physical therapists and we need at least ten.” Juana Gimenez, founder of the Parent Patient Friend Association continuing to serve
  3. 3. “We don’t have a dental clinic or specialty doctors,” said Gimenez. “With the Parent Patient Friend Association, we’re trying to get donations to fund these necessities that SENADIS can’t provide.” Plan and Rotaract are also onboard to lend a hand in any way they can. “Yes, we want to continue this connection,” confirmed Plan’s Gonzalez. “But also through bringing in other people, not just Plan; the government, the municipality, youth groups and other people who want to support the endeavor.” Rotaract’s President Sachelaridi added that on top of the trainings and school lectures that they participate in, promoting the rights and opportunities to advance persons living with disabilities to the public, “Is more urgent now, and that’s the part we want to attack.” *Author’s Note: Before the rapid increase in motorcycles, starting in the mid-2000s, most of Paraguay’s disabled were caused by birth defects or acquired diseases. However, according to Luz Bella González, the Director of SENADIS, in 2012 alone, out of 80,000 patients 26% were due to traffic accidents, mostly on motorcycles. Dayni Silva and Oscar Sachelaridi, leaders in Rotaract's youth group

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