PODGORICA, 15 February 2011 – “It’s About Ability”, a UNICEF-supported campaign promoting inclusion of children with disabilities into society, garnered the most votes from the people of Montenegro, winning the annual award for “the best humanitarian action” organized by one of the country`s leading national TV stations, and a national daily newspaper.
The aim of the campaign is to change attitudes and practices of the public and galvanize support for the inclusion of children with disabilities into society. A knowledge, attitudes and practices survey conducted among 1,000 citizens in Montenegro in August showed considerable social distance towards children with disabilities.
Lazar Dragojevic, one of many active child advocates in the campaign, received the award on Tuesday`s live nationwide telecast. When asked to comment his experience as a child with disability who goes to school with children without disability, Lazar simply said “I am part of my school just like any other child.”
Over a three-month period, billboards all over the country showed Montenegro’s children with disability as active members of society – as athletes, friends, musicians, dancers, students, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters. Adapted from an earlier successful campaign in Croatia they centred on key messages –Where many see difficulties, we see opportunities; where many see obstacles, we see friendship; where many see weakness, we see courage; and where many see burden, we see love.
A broad coalition of more than 100 partners joined the campaign led by the Government of Montenegro and UNICEF, including the European Union, Council of Europe, OSCE, the UN family, Embassies, Associations of Parents of Children with disabilities, many NGOs, all print and electronic media, the private sector, local officials and children with and without disabilities and parents from all over the country.
The campaign not only talked about ability. It demonstrated it. Through inter-generational dialogues, special sessions of municipal and school parliaments, sports events with Special Olympics, TV shows and one-minute films made by children with disabilities themselves, “It’s About Ability” has given a human face – a child’s face – to inclusion.
The campaign has already notched up significant results. An evaluation survey of the first phase showed that the number of people who believe that children with disabilities should only live in special institutions almost halved. Parents are more open than ever before to friendship with children with disabilities and inclusive classes.
People from across the country earlier voted through text messaging and the Facebook social network for UNICEF supported campaign to get the “humanitarian action award in 2010”.
“This award is a recognition of the ability and potential of children with disabilities. It’s a tribute to parents of children with disability, their courage, love and devotion. It’s a demonstration of the power of partnership and the power of child participation for social change. Because most of all, this award is about children. Children with disability and their friends have shown us the way. They have demonstrated what “It’s About Ability” really means. This is their award and their success” said UNICEF Montenegro Representative Noala Skinner.
The competition also included awards for the best book, environmental action, event, person in sports, culture, media, education and statement of the year.
A participant of the “It’s about ability” campaign, 16-year-old Ksenija Brajovic, won the award for the statement of the year.
“Children with disabilities let us into their world so easily. I believe this is a great thing and that we should let them into our world in the same way,” she said at the closing event of the first phase of the campaign in December.
Ksenija received the greatest number of votes from the public despite stiff competition from prominent officials – Montenegro’s former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, current Prime Minister Igor Luksic, President of Serbia Boris Tadic, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule and President of Tresnjevo local community Miso Perovic.
“What started as a campaign has evolved into a movement supporting full inclusion of children with disabilities into all aspects of life in Montenegro – families, schools, communities and hearts. We cannot and will not stop here. `It’s About Ability` will continue, and grow. There is a lot of work in front of us but the results of the campaign evaluation show that we are off to a great start,” concluded UNICEF Montenegro Representative Noala Skinner.