It’s about ability – Intergenerational dialogue on inclusion in Bijelo Polje

On Monday, March 7, more than thirty children with and without disabilities met in Bijelo Polje with representatives of national and local authorities from northern municipalities to discuss actions to be taken to support full inclusion of children with disabilities into Montenegro’s society. Two children moderated the intergenerational dialogue and one child was the rapporteur. Bijelo Polje’s discussion was held in the presence of the British Ambassador to Montenegro, Katherine Knight Sands and UNICEF Representative Noala Skinner.“I have a question for mayors. What are you doing to make all public institutions accessible to persons with disability?” one of the children asked.

Mayor of Kolasin, Mr. Mileta Bulatovic, responded expressing his willingness to support this as much as possible. He underlined that this issue is not relevant to one mandate or one politician, but an obligation that every municipality needs to respond to.“Can my classroom be one of those which are on the ground floor of the school?” asked a student with disability from one of the local primary schools on the north of the country.

Deputy Minister of Education Ms. Vesna Vucurovic promised to follow up on this issue with the school principal.The intergenerational dialogue in Bijelo Polje is the first in a series that will be organized within the It’s about ability campaign to cover all municipalities in 2011.Following a two day workshop led by the NGO “Centre for Child Rights”, with support from UNICEF and the British  Embassy, children from Bijelo Polje, Mojkovac, Kolasin, Pljevlja and Podgorica participated in the discussion in Bijelo Polje. Representatives of local and national authorities, Centres for Social Welfare, preschools and primary schools, Parents’ Councils and Associations, Day Care Centres for children with disability and the Centre for Child and Family Support participated in the intergenerational dialogue on March 7.Bijelo Polje’s discussion was held in the presence of the British Ambassador to Montenegro, Katherine Knight Sands and UNICEF Representative Noala Skinner, who also responded to interesting questions.British Ambassador to Montenegro, Katherine Knight Sands was asked about progress towards inclusion of children with disability in the UK and whether discrimination exists in UK.

Ms. Kinght Sands outlined some of the many measures taken to support inclusive education and services and underscored the importance of listening to children as advocates for their rights and social change. She stated that in her country as well as everywhere in the world discrimination exists, but there are also laws and institutions fighting against it.

The intergeneration dialogue ended with a set of recommendations for actions that children presented and that included opening of day care centres for children with disabilities in all municipalities; continuing with trainings of teachers to support inclusive education in all schools; making all public institutions accessible to persons with disabilities; making Local Plans for Action for Children in all municipalities and replicating good models, such as Centres for Children and Family support.

“Our aim is for every intergenerational dialogue to result in concrete actions that participants will take up in order to create more opportunities for children with and without disabilities to meet, play, be friends, go to school and grow up together.” concluded UNICEF Montenegro Representative Noala Skinner.

In 2011, within the It’s about ability campaign, intergenerational dialogues and a series of various events will be organized throughout the country in order to continue creating opportunities for citizens to interact with children with disability, to see their potential, courage, strength and love and welcome them into their hearts, homes and communities.