Advocacy Training on More Effective Inclusion Efforts Conducted in Europe
By “Agate” President Karine Grigoryan and “Agate” Project Officer Gayane Grigoryan
Representatives of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) from five Eastern European countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – joined together in Prague, Czech Republic, from December 5-7, 2017, to participate in the “Advocacy for More Effective Inclusion in Political and Public Life” training. The training, which focused on effective political advocacy skills and comparative regional experiences, was organized by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in partnership with “Agate” Rights Defense Center for Women with Disabilities, with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
IFES Senior Access and Inclusion Specialist Virginia Atkinson, IFES Senior Inclusion Officer Rebecca Aaberg, “Agate” President Karine Grigoryan and “Agate” Project Officer Gayane Grigoryan, all experienced trainers, led the interactive three-day training and provided practical guidance. Conducted in English and Russian, the training focused on advocacy techniques for effective communication with government bodies and different stakeholders.
I really liked the teaching methods, because, in my opinion, they were successfully combined; covered various topics that may be useful for our further work in this field; provided experience of other participating countries; discussed theory and practice; and gave interactive tasks. –Lyudmila Fursova, participant from Ukraine
During the three days of training, participants were guided to create advocacy plans for reaching goals toward the inclusion of persons with disabilities in political processes. The training also included thematic panels on topics related to the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities as voters, candidates, election observers, election officials and others, in order to provide participants from each country the opportunity to share their experiences and best practices.
The whole training course was very effective and impressive, well organized and interesting, and as for the trainers they all were really professional and highly experienced. During the three-day training sessions, we got acquainted with the concept of advocacy and its tools, at the same time we learned about both the international and the European legal and policy frameworks, got acquainted with techniques for effective communication, learned about the experiences of other participating countries, and shared our experience too. –Ashot Mkrtchyan, participant from Armenia
The DPOs had a chance not only to gain information, knowledge and best practices from the trainers, but also discussed the barriers and strategies for meaningful participation in political and public life, experiences conducting political advocacy initiatives, and leadership of persons with disabilities as observers, candidates, elected officials, and election officials. Participants learned how to create an advocacy goal using the SMART approach (SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound) and how to leverage their organization’s strengths and weaknesses by creating a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis.
I think that all sessions were interesting. But the most useful, probably, were the last sessions, where we did an assessment of the capacities of our organizations and wrote projects, because both the theory and practice were successfully connected in these sessions, and now it is possible to use these lessons to improve our future work. –Lyudmila Fursova, participant from Ukraine
Working with participants from different countries helped them to brainstorm some areas of focus for advocacy, practice different kinds of advocacy techniques, share their experiences as leaders in political and civic life, make arguments and role play.
There are so many good impressions at the training, all are really very good. I like the trainers and the way they work with us. It is very easy to assimilate the information, and it is very interactive. Most of all I liked the intercultural experience and the session on some techniques for effective communication. –Luliana Tabacari, participant from Moldova
Participants also discussed the unique barriers encountered by persons with disabilities with intersectional identities, gaining a deeper understanding of multiple marginalization during a “privilege walk” activity. Intersectionality will be explored further by training participants through research conducted in Armenia on barriers to the inclusion of women with disabilities in the political process and through seminars and inclusive activities that will be conducted in Georgia to raise awareness of disability rights among youth with disabilities and their peers.
After the Prague training all participants are going to implement different advocacy actions and activities in their countries, which they drafted during the training. The training helped them gain best practices and experience on leadership for an effective advocacy in order to promote political participation of persons of disabilities in Eastern European countries.