Hugues Rakoto Ramambason
Could you introduce yourself and your organization?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. My name is Hugues Rakoto Ramambason. I am the secretary of the Malagasy Disability Network (Réseau Malgache du Handicap), a network of actors involved in the field of disability whose objective is to change the way society treats disability. The network is interested in all questions and all information pertaining to disability. Especially, in the rights of persons with disabilities. And the network’s vision of disability is that of the Convention.
We have not counted how many network members we work with, but our organisation is present in Madagascar’s 22 Regions, especially in the universities. Our members include persons with different types of disabilities, as well as persons without disabilities, who intervene in the field of disability: social facilitators, specialised educators, social workers, journalists, economists, students, lawyers, researchers, communicators.
What was the situation in Madagascar prior to the ratification?
Prior to ratification, the commitments made in the constitution and in Law n° 97034 only encouraged private sector stakeholders to employ persons with disabilities. However, these measures had no hard, legislative value. As a result, persons with disabilities, who according to Ministry of Health statistics represented 7.8% of the national population in 2004, were not considered subjects with equal rights. In addition, Malagasy customs still tend to stigmatise persons with disabilities, who remained fairly invisible in all areas of public life. Persons with disabilities were therefore excluded from the social and economic system, and the majority could not enjoy or fully exercise their rights, as full-fledged citizens. As a result, more than 80% of persons with disabilities in Madagascar lived in extremely precarious conditions. This was the situation before ratification. At the associative level, very few actors and Disabled People’s Organisations were truly familiar with the rights of persons with disabilities. In particular, there was very little knowledge of CRPD principles and foundations, or of its monitoring and implementation processes.
The changes brought about by the Convention
The CRPD was ratified by Madagascar on December 3rd, 2014. Even over this short period of time, change is visible. Ratification marks a new beginning for Madagascar, characterised by the consideration of disability in almost all areas. Disability is now considered within institutional and legal frameworks. An example is the implementation of inclusive education, which the national Ministry of Education in great part initiated, with its technical and financial partners. We have also seen the drafting and validation of the National Disability Mainstreaming Plan, which the Ministry of Population in great part initiated. All these examples demonstrate the State’s willingness to move forward since the Convention’s ratification. The State is beginning to include disability into its public-sector policies. And also into the National Development Plan and the General Policy of the State. Our network was invited to participate in the validation the National Policy Plan for Civil Services (Plan de politiques nationales de la fonction publique), which addresses public service and civil service accessibility. Also, persons with disabilities have been identified as priority beneficiaries in social welfare policies. The State is beginning to take persons with disabilities into account, even though tentatively. This is already a consequence of ratification.
In addition, ratification has energised the disability rights movement in Madagascar, as it has given persons with disabilities a little more hope of change in their lives. Disabled People’s Organisations have been able to acquire and reinforce their knowledge with respect to the rights of persons with disabilities, and the effective recognition, enjoyment and exercise of these rights. Thanks to a number of training projects, we have understood the Malagasy legal corpus’s flaws and shortcomings with regards to persons with disabilities in Madagascar. This has enabled us to look at how the legislative system might be changed. Before the Convention’s ratification, there was no such hope that the rights of persons with disabilities might truly become effective.
What activities have you participated in to implement the Convention?
What is key is awareness-raising, in each community. Figuring out how to inform and raise the awareness of the general population, and especially of local elected representatives, and how to facilitate the implementation and effective application of the rights defined in our national legislation. So that it is understood that persons with disabilities have rights just like all other citizens, and that steps must be taken to ensure that they can enjoy and exercise their rights, in their families, and at the grass roots level in their communities. A system of cascade training enabled us to learn, be informed, and transmit this understanding to the grass roots actors, the grass roots facilitators, so that they in turn can share, reinforce their skills, inform and raise the awareness of the actors within their communities. We must also raise the awareness of the elites, university students, teachers and educators, because it is through understanding, research and education that we can change the perception and behaviour of society in relation to disability.
What are the main challenges to the Convention’s implementation?
First of all, that my rights as a person with a disability be recognised. That I may enjoy and fully exercise my rights, especially my fundamental rights, in relation to work, to access to work, and to employment. And in addition, I would also like persons with disabilities to have access to Inclusive Education, that inclusive education be fully effective.