Elizabeth Johnson Sellers

  • Ukraine | 2 million refugees flee armed conflict

    As Humanity & Inclusion continues its assessment of humanitarian needs in Ukraine, refugees in neighboring countries are living in harsh conditions with little access to information.

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  • published Katie Smith Memorial 2022-03-09 15:42:46 -0500

    c_Jeff-Meer_HI__Two_women_and_one_man_smile_for_a_photo._The_woman_in_the_middle_is_sitting_in_a_wheelchair.jpgKatie Smith, center, with Humanity & Inclusion's Deputy Director for Advocacy Blandine Bouniol and U.S. Executive Director Jeff Meer in New York.

    Katie Smith Memorial

    The Humanity & Inclusion family is deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Katie Smith, who represented Humanity & Inclusion as a member of a delegation to the United Nations Committee of States Parties (COSP) to the UNCRPD in New York in 2017. Read Katie's reflection on attending that event. She was a member of Humanity & Inclusion's Advisory Council. Katie did great work through the Harkin Summit, attending events in Washington, DC, and Paris, France, ensuring the perspective of young adults with disabilities was at the table. 

    Katie's family has asked that memorial contributions be made in Katie's memory to Three Rivers Adaptive Sports or the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers.

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  • War in Ukraine shows devastating impact of heavy bombing on civilians

    Statement: Humanity & Inclusion is deeply concerned about the continuous escalation of armed violence that indiscriminately affects Ukrainian civilians since February 24, 2022, after 8 years of conflict in the Donbass.

    We are extremely worried about the extensive harm caused to civilians by the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as internationally banned weapons such as cluster munitions.

    As documented in recent conflicts, the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in towns and cities results in a foreseeable pattern of harm. Research has shown a constant proportion of civilians among victims: when explosive weapons are used in populated areas 90% of those affected are civilians. Because of the huge blast effects of these weapons, their inaccuracy or dispersion of multiple elements, their impact covers large areas. The devastation they cause is aggravated by urban environment, closed space, collapsing walls and buildings.

    Explosive weapons kill and/or cause complex injuries. They are the cause of massive forced displacement. Entire communities suffer extensive psychological trauma, with particularly acute consequences on children.

    Bombing and shelling in cities also generates reverberating effects: damaging and destroying civilian infrastructures, such as houses, hospitals, schools, water, electricity and sanitation facilities or communication networks. Access to essential services is disrupted. Explosive remnants of war contaminate the land and impact communities long after the war has ended.

    This nightmarish scenario is unfolding in Ukraine where cities like Kyiv, Kharkiv, Marioupol, Kherson, Tchernihiv and others are impacted by explosive weapons. One week after the beginning of the conflict, hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured, and the death toll is expected to continue rising. Most of the harm is caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area impact, including airstrikes and shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems. Bombing occurring on the site of the Zaporijia nuclear plant is adding an even more terrifying perspective to the consequences of the impacts observed on residential buildings and public infrastructure.

    Reports also show that cluster munitions have also been used in Russian attacks, impacting civilian buildings—including a hospital and preschool—and generating civilian casualties. Those weapons are internationally banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions since 2010. Indiscriminate by design, they predominantly kill and injure civilians.

    A high level of additional contamination by explosive remnants of wars will be generated by the ongoing offensive, in a country already heavily contaminated by landmines, especially in East Ukraine where the former front was located in 2014.

    The humanitarian consequences of what is unfolding are likely to be devastating. According to OCHA’s appeal, 18 million people are projected to become affected by the crisis, and 12 million people are expected to need humanitarian assistance. Reports of civilians trapped in towns and cities under shelling continue. Severe essential health supplies, fuel and cash shortages are reported in the country, with heightened insecurity affecting access to basic services. The escalation of armed violence is forcing people to flee. One week after the beginning of the large-scale military conflict, 1 million refugees have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries. The number of internally displaced is expected to reach 6.7 million people in the period to come. The numbers are raising by the hour. Humanity & Inclusion is particularly concerned by the situation of people with disabilities, older people and vulnerable persons, who are facing great obstacles to meeting basic needs like seeking shelter and accessing food. They are trapped and left behind. They need accessible information, access to safe evacuation pathways, shelters, lifesaving medical supplies.

    Humanity & Inclusion strongly condemns the use of illegal weapons such as cluster munitions. We call for an immediate ceasefire and for respect of International Humanitarian Law, including unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance. Stopping the use of explosive weapons is mandatory to protect civilian lives.

    The international community must do everything in their power to prevent this from happening again. The situation in Ukraine demonstrates the urgency to adopt the political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Humanity & Inclusion calls on states to join this historical process and participate to the ongoing negotiations to strengthen the protection of civilian.

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    For media inquiries, please contact Mica Bevington at [email protected].


  • Ukraine | Emergency team arrives in Ukraine

    Humanity & Inclusion's emergency specialist team is present in Ukraine, continuing to assess needs there and in neighboring countries.

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  • Senegal | Preparing the next generation of disability rights advocates

    My name’s Fama Ka. I’m the mayor of Mbour in Senegal. I’ve had a visual impairment since I was 13. I’m now 54. I have a long track record in fighting for women’s rights, particularly the rights of women with disabilities.

    I am a women’s representative for several women’s and disabled people’s organizations. I’ve been involved in campaigning since 1990. I’ve represented Senegalese and African women with visual impairments in Kenya, Canada, Burkina Faso, Japan and Thailand. I am vice-chair of the Senegalese Federation of Disabled People’s Organizations and general secretary of the National Committee of Women with Disabilities.

    I am also the treasurer of the Pikine organization of persons with disabilities and member of the drop-in center run by the organization for women with disabilities, one of Humanity & Inclusion’s partners. I listen to a lot of abused women. They share their experiences, their problems and their needs with me. This drop-in center has made an enormous difference and I’m proud I helped set it up.

    Women didn’t have anywhere they could go to talk about their feelings or to share their problems. This center is a place where they can open up to their peers and talk about the difficulties they face.

    Our fight is everyone’s fight

    I was proud of being a girl and I am proud of being a woman. But women in our country suffer all sorts of abuse: psychological, verbal, physical, and so on. Especially women like us, with disabilities. We suffer abuse both as women and as people with disabilities.

    Women with disabilities in Senegal are highly committed. They join organizations and form alliances with other women. They’re improving their lives because they’re seizing the opportunity to talk about their problems.

    Their fight is now everyone’s fight—the fight of all women.

    Society needs to advance our rights. It must fight alongside people with disabilities. Just as it advances the rights of children, it must take action and advance the rights of people with disabilities. We need to promote local and inclusive development and involve people with disabilities in managing communities. Fortunately, things are changing, and more attention is being paid to the problems facing women with disabilities. For example, as part of a job creation scheme, I’m currently training 15 young women with visual impairments to run their own businesses.

    Developing my community

    The role of our partner, Humanity & Inclusion, is to support people with disabilities in their struggle and to supply their projects with technical and financial assistance. Humanity & Inclusion has worked alongside women with disabilities for many years, including by helping to advance their rights and promote their inclusion in society and the workplace, and by funding their projects. Humanity & Inclusion has done a lot for people with disabilities, and this is something we welcome and value.

    Things have changed. Many women with disabilities now help run society. They have a voice on decision-making bodies and can influence the way people behave.

    What also drives me is the fact that I, as a visually impaired woman, have a role to play in society. I even train people without disabilities now because they have confidence in people with disabilities.

    I am proud to be not only a woman but a woman with disabilities. Because this has not prevented me from helping my sisters or from helping develop my local community and country.

    Fighting to advance our rights

    I want to appeal to my sisters to continue combating violence against women and to advance our rights. The goal is to build a society where no one is excluded, where everyone has the same opportunities and privileges.

    I work with young women with disabilities to prepare the next generation of campaigners. I have been fighting for people with disabilities for three decades; it is time to pass on my knowledge and skills. These young women with disabilities will continue the work I started so many years ago.

    Just as others helped me become who I am, I will pass on what I know to the younger generation, so they continue the fight.

    In Senegal, Humanity & Inclusion works with partner associations, supporting them to increase their visibility and improve their impact on the reduction of gender-based violence, the empowerment of women and girls and gender equality. The Making it Work - Gender and Disability project, implemented in Senegal since March 2021, is working alongside women and girls with disabilities to support lasting change to fight gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities. The aim is to support the efforts of women with disabilities who are leaders in the fight against gender-based violence and enable partner organizations to increase their impact.

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  • Senegal | Building an inclusive society with a rights-based approach

    My name’s Dieynaba Diallo. I’m 53, and I live in Senegal. I have a motor disability and I coordinate the Thiès branch of the pan-African Women in Law and Development in Africa organization, a partner of Humanity & Inclusion.

    I have a disability because I caught polio when I was 7 years old. Back then, people with disabilities, especially little girls, were treated as objects of pity. My mother fought hard for me. She insisted I go to school. It had an enormous impact on my life.

    I gained confidence at school. I always felt that I needed to do better than the others. When I challenged myself, it wasn’t as someone with disabilities. I measured myself against what children without disabilities were or weren’t capable of. Back then, people believed only boys could excel and succeed. To stand my ground, I competed with them for the best marks and to be top of the class.

    I always felt I should use my position as a woman with disabilities differently. I wanted people to know I was more than my disability. I wanted to show them I had abilities despite my disability.

    During my career, I worked in a human rights NGO, raising awareness on women's rights. I also worked at the African Network for Integrated Development, which provides legal and judicial support, and at a shelter for victims of violence. Training is my vocation. Some things resonate with me, and I always want to give my input. This means you have to be able and knowledgeable enough in different fields. It’s a challenge and I’m determined to rise to it. This is why I have seized every opportunity to educate myself throughout my life.

    Systemic violence against women with disabilities

    I’ve seen cases of physical violence, and some of it was dreadful. I recently helped a woman file a complaint against her father-in-law. Before beating her, he removed her artificial legs so she couldn’t move or escape. This is a good example of violence against women with disabilities: had she been able to use her legs, she could perhaps have run away.

    Some women also suffer sexual or psychological abuse. Medical professionals also commit acts of violence against women with disabilities. These women have rights: the right to motherhood, for example, and the right to a consultation. They must be welcomed with respect and dignity by hospital staff. We had to raise their awareness and show them why they were part of this systemic abuse.

    Women with disabilities must be able to exercise all their rights, especially their right to health and economic empowerment.

    If someone abuses you but you are financially independent, you are protected to a certain extent. One woman with disabilities told her me her child was beaten at home, but she couldn’t do anything about it because she was frightened that she would be thrown out and she didn’t have anywhere else to go. Imagine what she had to go through because she couldn’t cope financially. This has to stop.

    When I started working for a human rights NGO, I raised women’s awareness of their rights. Because I didn’t earn enough to make ends meet, I used to resell products I’d bought in Gambia. It wasn’t easy, the road was pretty bad, it could be dangerous, but it never crossed my mind to give up.

    I felt I couldn’t allow myself to do it: as a woman with disabilities, if I gave up, they would have stopped me making something of my life. Financial empowerment really makes a difference to a person.

    A rights-based approach

    All we want from partner organizations like Humanity & Inclusion is to share the fight with us. To fight by our side against injustice and build an inclusive society that advocates a rights-based approach and makes it possible for everyone to live in dignity.

    We need to adjust to reality and diversify our activities. What we really need now are sustainable businesses that create jobs and generate income. Businesses owned by women with disabilities. Women with disabilities have the ideas, the courage, and they think big—they just lack the means.

    I joined all sorts of organizations early on, and this commitment really shaped who I am. My main priority is the rights of people with disabilities and women with disabilities—in Senegal, internationally and on decision-making bodies. Other women have other outlets to talk about their problems; these conversations are closed to women with disabilities. I want to help my sisters, talk with them and tell them that no one can fight this battle for us. We and only we can see it through. Together, we will win this fight.

    I am driven by the challenges still ahead of us. We must meet them together.

    One day, in a meeting, one of my sisters said to me: “I want to be Dieynaba Diallo.” I replied: I’m relieved to hear that! Because when people see me today, they don’t dare commit injustices. But others still suffer these injustices. This is why my mission is to make every woman with disabilities a Dieynaba Diallo—a woman who knows how to say no when she has to.

    In Senegal, Humanity & Inclusion works with partner associations, supporting them to increase their visibility and improve their impact on the reduction of gender-based violence, the empowerment of women and girls and gender equality. The Making it Work - Gender and Disability project, implemented in Senegal since March 2021, is working alongside women and girls with disabilities to support lasting change to fight gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities. The aim is to support the efforts of women with disabilities who are leaders in the fight against gender-based violence and enable partner organizations to increase their impact.

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  • Ukraine | More than 1 million displaced

    Update from Romania: Humanity & Inclusion's emergency experts provide an update on the needs they are seeing as displaced Ukrainians flee their country.

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  • Ukraine | Delivering aid to displaced Ukrainians

    13 million people are displaced within Ukraine and surrounding countries. Heavy bombings are destroying homes, hospitals, schools—and have killed or injured more than 17,800 civilians (UN official numbers). We know that many deaths and injuries have not yet been recorded. Humanitarian needs are acute.

    Humanity & Inclusion's emergency response is underway. Teams in Ukraine & Moldova include experts in rehabilitation, logistics, mental health and psychosocial support, basic needs, and the inclusion of persons with disabilities and older people. 

    In addition to providing specialized rehabilitation services, psychosocial support and cash distribution, among other initiatives, Humanity & Inclusion is distributing assistive mobility devices such as wheelchairs, canes and walkers. A mobile mental health team is visiting centers housing displaced people. Humanity & Inclusion is working alongside fellow actors responding to the emergency to help implement inclusive humanitarian aid and ensure that populations experiencing the most vulnerability can access vital resources.

    In Lviv, our rehabilitation specialists are caring burn victims and patients requiring amputations, as well as training physical therapists on treating conflict-related injuries. In eastern Ukraine, where the needs are greatest, our teams are distributing mobility devices and hygiene supplies.

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  • Laos | Deminer shares her experience clearing weapons

    Lamngueun joined Humanity & Inclusion in 2006 as an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) expert. Today, she manages an 8-person clearance team in Laos, which has the most cluster munition contamination in the world. She tells her experience:

    Hi! My name is Lamngueun and I am 40 years old. I grew up in Phine, a town in Savannakhet Province in Laos, which is an area heavily affected by unexploded ordnances. I come from a large family; I have seven sisters and brothers. I now have three children of my own.

    I am proud to be a female deminer; every day I think to myself how it is a great feeling to demonstrate that the disposal and destruction of explosive devices is not a profession only for men. I am one of the few female deminers to reach the EOD level 3, which means I manage a clearance team and supervise remediation of sites.

    Q: Has your team discovered anything unusual recently?

    At the end of 2021, we were clearing an area in Nalaeng village, North Laos, with the explosive ordnances disposal expert team. The contaminated area was all over a hill surrounding the village. As usual, we found a lot of submunitions but not only that.

    After five or six days of work, one morning an operator uncovered a large metallic object while he was excavating. He called me to investigate and identify the finding. We identified it as a Mk82 500-pound aircraft bomb—dropped by a U.S. military plane—laid in horizontal position, around 25 inches below the surface. This is a large bomb very common in the Savannakhet Province (East of the country) but not so common here in the North of Laos where we usually find smaller items such as artillery, mortar, grenades, rockets and cluster munitions. This was an event for the team and an opportunity for the supervisors to share their expertise. They explained how the tail fuse works and how to identify it.

    We marked the site where the device was discovered, and the risk area around it. Then, the Operations Chief came to the site to assist in planning the disposal of the bomb. Such a bomb requires a 1-mile safety radius around the device. Two days later, the bomb was safe after partially evacuating the nearby village and moving the device to a disposal pit where it was destroyed using six pounds of TNT.

    For this, I contributed to positively identifying the bomb, planning the demolition and securing the area on the day of disposal.

    Q: What are the key qualities to make a successful EOD expert?

    The most important thing is to be always concentrated on what you are doing. As a team leader, I need to take responsibility to ensure all tasks are assigned safely and completed to good quality, as planned.

    We are in contact of explosive ordnances almost every day so we have to be alert all the time. A few days ago, we found and destroyed more than 10 cluster munitions and explosive ordnances in one day as we were clearing a rice field in Homphanh village in the district of Houameuang, North Laos!

    For this job, you also need to be both physically and mentally strong. Field operations can be harsh. For example, the agriculture land here in Houameuang is mostly on the edge of mountains. We work long hours swinging a 26-pound metal detector. Excavating is hard work. Then, at the end of the day, when you think you have finished, we get back to base camp where we have to wash our clothes, help cook dinner, and complete our daily report.

    Q: When and how did you become a deminer for Humanity & Inclusion?

    It was in 2005, when I was just finishing school, I remember seeing that Humanity & Inclusion was looking for EOD operators. I decided to submit an application to work for the organization as an EOD expert. The process of applying for the job was not easy; I was lucky to be short-listed but then I had to go through a series of tests: mathematics, reading, medical and physical tests. After all my hard work I found out I passed!

    The job started with an intensive 2-month training course. I found myself in a classroom with 25 other young men and women. We learned how explosive ordnances work, what the hazards are, how to use specialist equipment such as a detector, how to destroy an unexploded bomb, how to use a radio or a megaphone, and how to provide medical first aid.

    Q: What do you like most about your job?

    I was happy to get a job that helps to protect people from the danger of explosive ordnances. There are many explosive ordnances in Laos. Many accidents occurred. One accident is vivid in my memory: my father had an accident in 1984. A day after he finished office work in the evening, he went to work in the rice field. He dug and repaired the earthen dyke of the rice paddy with his spade. He hit an explosive device and it exploded. He was very lucky as he was not seriously injured, but he had to go to hospital for a week.

    I have seen my grandparents, parents, children and many people in my community living in fear each day knowing the risks of deadly unexploded ordnances. I am so glad to participate to address the issue.

    Q: How do you balance working as an EOD expert with having a family?

    When Humanity & Inclusion’s base moved from Savanakhet province, where my three children live, to Houameuang in North Laos, it was really difficult. This means I am further away from my family. It takes one-and-a-half days to travel back home.

    We have three campaign breaks each year, but last year because of Covid-19, there were a lot of disruptions and we worked from April through December without going back home. That was a long time for me.

    Videos calls help because I can see how my children are doing back home. There are not many job opportunities close to my family and it is crucial for me to provide an income to support them; this is what motivates me to continue such important work.

     

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  • Senegal | In disability rights advocacy, motivation drives change

    I’m Oumou Khayri Diop. I’m 27 years old and I live in Senegal. I’m general secretary of the Association Handicap Form Educ, a partner of Humanity & Inclusion. I’m a carrier of voices: I denounce the problems and advocate for the rights of women with disabilities.  

    I had a difficult childhood because I lost the use of my legs when I was just 10 years old after an illness that completely changed my life. It wasn’t easy adapting to my new life and coming to terms with the changes. Fortunately, my parents didn’t give up on me: they did everything they could to see me walk again one day.

    I almost quit my studies, but with the help of my parents, my friends and my teachers, I found the motivation to carry on. I was a brilliant student, always the top of my class. But then I was sent to a high school where the classes were held on the upper floors, and accessibility was a real problem.

    My parents enrolled me in a private high school so that could continue my studies. I had to go miles in my wheelchair every day to get there.

    A year later, I lost my mother. That was a terrible shock for me. Her words of comfort, advice and love were what had motivated me and driven me to keep studying. But I passed my school-leaving certificate and went on several training programs. Today, I am an accountant and retailer, and I have qualifications in project management, electronics and mobile phone repair, and office automation.

    I’m young and disabled. We women with disabilities suffer more violence than other women, but people overlook us. So, I decided to commit to this cause.

    I’m involved in several associations. I’m general secretary of Association Handicap Form Educ, for example, which is a partner of Humanity & Inclusion, and president of the women's association in my neighborhood.

    I’m also the treasurer of a young leaders’ group that I created after attending a training course in Dakar, where I learned lessons that I wanted to share. With a friend of my mine who has visual disabilities, we set out to identify all the young disabled people in Senegal, whatever their disability. There are now 100 of us in the group.

    Motivation drives change

    If things are to move forward, there has to be a change in mentalities, an end to certain customs and to discrimination. Here, men have more power than women. Men think that women’s place is in the home. They should be looking after the children, and cooking and cleaning. The important decisions are always taken by men, whether at home or at work.

    Fortunately, things are changing. In the past, we didn’t dare fight for certain causes, such as an end to gender-based violence. We didn’t dare speak out on certain issues in the media, apply for certain jobs, study beyond a certain level or even travel. Now we see women graduates holding very important positions. There are programs in the media with women journalists publicly denouncing these same issues. Women travel all over the world, create jobs, are advisers, members of parliament, and so on.

    I see some very committed, motivated women. They promote causes, create groups to develop their activity and organize themselves to get the training they need.

    We must keep raising awareness, take part in radio and television programs, hold talks in schools and neighborhoods, at women's meetings and maybe even men's meetings.

    We look to our partners for long-term support. We want Humanity & Inclusion to accompany us in our projects, through training, job creation—anything that will improve our lives. We have some very important projects, but we lack the means to implement them. We also need Humanity & Inclusion to carry our voices to places where people can’t hear us.

    Humanity & Inclusion should also go to the most remote villages in Senegal to help women with disabilities who lack the means and tools to communicate. These are very committed women, fighters. Women who want to show what they're made of.

    To all women, I send the following message: believe in yourselves! We are mothers, sisters, and the world can’t develop without us. Let’s join hands and denounce all the injustices that are holding us back in life. We must all believe that change is in our own hands. We can’t let ourselves be dragged down. We must denounce injustice with all the means at our disposal. If we establish this momentum, then we will be buoyed up by a new mentality and I think the fight will be easier for all of us.

    We, women with disabilities, are the voice of mothers, women, disabled people, citizens – we are the voice of leaders.

    In Senegal, Humanity & Inclusion works with partner associations, supporting them to increase their visibility and improve their impact on the reduction of gender-based violence, the empowerment of women and girls and gender equality. The Making it Work - Gender and Disability project, implemented in Senegal since March 2021, is working alongside women and girls with disabilities to support lasting change to fight gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities. The aim is to support the efforts of women with disabilities who are leaders in the fight against gender-based violence and enable partner organizations to increase their impact.

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  • Senegal | Women with disabilities advocate for their rights

    My name is Khadidiatou Ba, and I am president of the Women’s Committee of the Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities in Senegal. We have a long history of working with Humanity & Inclusion in the field.

    I am a specialist in disability rights since completing an international training program on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I’m engaged in all activities concerning people with disabilities.

    Due to economic violence, women with disabilities are often poor. Economic violence is when you can’t go to school because of barriers to access, and then you can’t find work because you have no qualifications. It is when a whole system fails to prepare you. I encountered accessibility problems myself during my studies. To start with, my mother didn’t really want me to go to school; she was worried that I’d fall over in the street. Because of my disability, I walked with crutches. Later, accessibility issues prevented me from attending Cheikh-Anta-Diop University in Dakar.

    An ideal society is an inclusive and violence-free society that leaves no one behind.

    A country’s development is measured by what is happening at the bottom of the ladder. If Senegal or any other country leaves people with disabilities to beg in the street, then it is not developed.

    Uplifting women with disabilities

    Women with disabilities are very active in our associations. Yet they are often absent from the decision-making table. This is why we are pursuing our awareness-raising activities: to become part of the decision-making process and run the associations ourselves. But it’s a slow process.

    I think that women – with and without disabilities – should join political movements. If we were involved in politics and were members of the decision-making bodies, no one could speak in our stead. Today, we must ensure that inclusion is a priority in all policies. In the past, the approach was charity-based; today, it is rights-based calling for policy measures.

    We need this because we are at a point where people with disabilities must advocate for themselves and speak out about their problems so as not to be overlooked.

    For my part, I am an active member of an opposition political party. Thanks to my background and achievements, I now represent the women of this party nationally. This is a source of pride for me and I also see it is an example for my peers to follow.

    A synergy of causes

    Where women without disabilities suffer violence, we suffer twice as much: verbal, economic and sexual violence. Women without disabilities must adopt inclusion and support us. I often say that to win a fight, we need synergy of action with all the other organizations. This is how we obtained parity and the criminalization of sexual assault.

    We have to be willing to denounce violence because there are many taboos in Africa and some things are never mentioned. When a close relative sexually assaults a disabled person, nobody talks about it. Society needs to change its mentality with regard to violence against women. We need more promotion of legislation, more advocacy, to bring about change in these practices.

    The role of partner associations like Humanity & Inclusion is to support us in this fight. We have a long history with Humanity & Inclusion. Ever since I joined the disability movement, Humanity & Inclusion has been on the ground working alongside us. Its role is to accompany organizations of persons with disabilities and accompany disabled women who are victims of violence. Support them, train them and equip them.

    I draw strength from knowing that the next generation is waiting in the wings. We know that as long as the world exists, there will be violence.  So, we must never give up the fight. We must train young women with disabilities so that we leave activists behind us who are truly capable of advocating for change.

    I want to encourage girls, especially girls with disabilities, to find mentors among disabled women. There are many women with disabilities who are examples to follow.

    In Senegal, Humanity & Inclusion works with partner associations, supporting them to increase their visibility and improve their impact on the reduction of gender-based violence, the empowerment of women and girls and gender equality. The Making it Work - Gender and Disability project, implemented in Senegal since March 2021, is working alongside women and girls with disabilities to support lasting change to fight gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities. The aim is to support the efforts of women with disabilities who are leaders in the fight against gender-based violence and enable partner organizations to increase their impact.

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  • Senegal | Empowering women to end violence

    My name’s Awa Siré Touré. I’m 59 and I live in Ziguinchor, Senegal. I’ve been disabled for 20 years. With help from Humanity & Inclusion, I fight for the empowerment of women with disabilities.

    I’ve been aware of disability issues since I was young because one of my friends had a disability. When I began to have leg problems, I became one of those women with disabilities. Living with other women with disabilities, seeing their pain, listening to what they had to say — that’s when I really decided to do something about it. I work as a deputy general secretary at La Brigade de Conscientisation, an organization that takes action on violence against women in Ziguinchor, in partnership with Humanity & Inclusion. Women come to see us, and we help to solve their problems.

    I’m trying to change things. I want these women to be self-reliant. If a woman needs me, I can train and help her.

    I overcame my disability. I told myself it wasn’t an obstacle; it was just a disability.

    I earn my living making soaps and oils, and I’ve trained a lot of women to do the same. I showed them how to extract coconut oil, make soaps and sell them to earn their own money. When they needed something before, many women with disabilities said they had to turn to men for help. They were asked to give sexual favors in exchange for a few crumbs. When I heard about that, it was too much for me; I knew I had to do something to stop it. This is why we help women to be self-reliant and to earn their own living so they take back control of their lives.

    A lot of women with and without disabilities still ask me for help. I’m always ready to assist them.

    Giving women courage

    Women with disabilities were really ignored in the past. Being self-reliant gives them the means to be bold and say “no, you cannot force me to do this.” There are women with disabilities today who, when someone mistreats them, dare to speak out so the public hears about it.

    This is all down to our advocacy with the authorities and our awareness-raising activities. We explain that women with disabilities need a voice in policy-making forums and have the right to be heard.

    We need to give women with disabilities courage. We need to train them so they can defend themselves in society. We can do this through training and intensive awareness-raising. When we raise the awareness of young women, they realize they are people in their own right, and we give them the courage to defend themselves.

    Helping each other

    These obstacles are exhausting, they slow us down, but we’re still here and we’re still fighting!

    We’re making a difference. Women with disabilities never used to want to marry; they were frightened their in-laws would treat them badly. Now I see women with disabilities getting married and having children — and they don’t care what their in-laws say! They come to us, get involved, and do like everyone else.

    Humanity & Inclusion has always provided support to women with disabilities, especially here in Ziguinchor. They fit them with artificial limbs so they can walk and go about their business. Humanity & Inclusion put us in touch with the regional hospital, and many women with disabilities have been fitted with orthopedic devices. We hope the organization continues to provide support and assistance to women with disabilities.

    Here, in Casamance, we live in a combat zone. The fighting went on for years and there were lots of casualties. Women were sexually assaulted in their fields and maimed by mines. I’m asking the people who do bad things to stop. Let women finally live in peace.

    Let’s work together against mistreatment and find positive men to support our fight. I say “No!” to violence against women, especially women with disabilities.

    In Senegal, Humanity & Inclusion works with partner associations, supporting them to increase their visibility and improve their impact on the reduction of gender-based violence, the empowerment of women and girls and gender equality. The Making it Work - Gender and Disability project, implemented in Senegal since March 2021, is working alongside women and girls with disabilities to support lasting change to fight gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities. The aim is to support the efforts of women with disabilities who are leaders in the fight against gender-based violence and enable partner organizations to increase their impact.

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  • Ukraine | 700,000 people flee bombed cities

    Since Feb. 24, cities across Ukraine have been the target of devastating weapons strikes. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing their homes.

    Read more

  • published Ukraine Crisis Updates 2022-03-02 14:33:13 -0500

  • Ukraine Updates Intro

    13 million people are displaced within Ukraine and surrounding countries. Heavy bombings are destroying homes, hospitals, schools—and have killed or injured more than 17,800 civilians (UN official numbers). We know that many deaths and injuries have not yet been recorded. Humanitarian needs are acute.

    Humanity & Inclusion's emergency response is underway. Teams in Ukraine & Moldova include experts in rehabilitation, logistics, mental health and psychosocial support, basic needs, and the inclusion of persons with disabilities and older people. 

    In addition to providing specialized rehabilitation services, psychosocial support and cash distribution, among other initiatives, Humanity & Inclusion is distributing assistive mobility devices such as wheelchairs, canes and walkers. A mobile mental health team is visiting centers housing displaced people. Humanity & Inclusion is working alongside fellow actors responding to the emergency to help implement inclusive humanitarian aid and ensure that populations experiencing the most vulnerability can access vital resources.

    In Lviv, our rehabilitation specialists are caring burn victims and patients requiring amputations, as well as training physical therapists on treating conflict-related injuries. In eastern Ukraine, where the needs are greatest, our teams are distributing mobility devices and hygiene supplies.

    Press statements are available here. For media inquiries, please contact Mica Bevington at [email protected].

    Donate: Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund

    As Humanity & Inclusion's crisis response evolves and expands, we'll share key updates here:


  • donated 2022-03-04 17:14:22 -0500

  • Rwanda | Longini takes his first steps on new artificial limbs

    For 18 months, Longini was unable to walk; he had outgrown his artificial limbs and Covid-19 lockdowns prevented him from getting new ones. If he was going to get back on track, Longini needed replacements as soon as possible.

    Longini, now 9, was born with lower limb deformities. When he was 3 months old, his mother, Elisabeth, took him to the nearest hospital, and he was referred to an orthopedic hospital in Ririma. As other children took their first steps, Longini was still unable to walk. When he was 3 years old, doctors performed a double amputation so he could wear artificial limbs later in life.

    In between working odd jobs to support Longini and his younger brother, Elisabeth sought out educational opportunities for Longini. After years of searching, she found HVP-Gatagara—a leading center for the rehabilitation and education of people with disabilities in Rwanda. More than 30 miles from their home, the center includes an inclusive boarding school. At 6 years old, Longini was finally enrolled in school.

    But Longini’s greatest dream was to learn to walk.

    At nearly $900 each, artificial limbs are particularly expensive in Rwanda. Few patients can afford the assistance devices, including Longini’s family. Humanity & Inclusion stepped up to help. The complex housing Longini’s school also includes a rehabilitation center and orthopedic-fitting workshop supported by Humanity & Inclusion. For families unable to afford care, Humanity & Inclusion provides financial assistance.

    Fitted with two custom-made artificial limbs, Longini took his first ever steps as a 7-year-old. In no time, he was running around and playing enthusiastically with his friends. His life changed completely.

    As a growing boy, Longini regularly needs new artificial limbs. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and the strict measures taken by the government to protect the population meant the orthopedic center had to close its doors. Longini outgrew his worn devices, and it was 18 months before he could be fitted with new ones in November 2021. Longini will need rehabilitation care and artificial limbs for the rest of his life.

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    ‘A joy to watch him now’

    Longini is in his second year of primary school, where he lives most of the time.

    “When he comes home for the holidays, he can do small jobs around the house, like the dishes or sweeping the courtyard,” Elisabeth adds. “He loves being with other people, going out and running about the local streets with them. All children like him.”

    A hard-working student, Longini repeatedly tells his mother he wants to finish his studies so he can get a good job, earn money and support his family.

    “My son’s life hasn’t always been easy but it’s a joy to watch him now,” Elisabeth says. “It’s wonderful he’s included with other children. It’s so uplifting.”

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  • Nepal | After traffic accident, Sandip learns the power of rehabilitation

    After losing his leg in a road accident, Sandip was fitted with an artificial limb by Humanity & Inclusion and its partners.

    In Nepal, road accidents are the second most common cause of injury.  When he was 14, the truck Sandip was riding in was involved in a traffic crash in Chitwan. He was seriously injured.

    “Doctors had to amputate his leg above the knee immediately to prevent further infection,” his mother Sukumaya explains.

    Trials of isolation

    The accident caused Sandip to have limited mobility. A sixth grader, he ultimately dropped out of school.

    “Having lost my leg, I was ashamed to go out or to school,” Sandip says. “I did not see myself going anywhere as I could not walk. As a result, I started staying home, playing games on my phone, and cutting myself off from the outside world.”

    Fortunately, Sandip’s family heard about an upcoming health screening camp in their community, providing different services for children with disabilities. These services were implemented by Humanity & Inclusion and its local partners, including Autism Care Chitwan Society, as part of the UK-funded Inclusive Futures Program.

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    The power of rehabilitation

    After the health screening camp, Sandip was referred to the National Disabled Fund, Humanity & Inclusion’s partner, which provides rehabilitation services. The teenager was fitted with an artificial limb, but he didn’t believe he would ever walk again.

    “Initially when we met Sandip, he wasn’t convinced by the idea of having rehabilitation care,” says Ramesh Baral, an inclusion officer working with Humanity & Inclusion. “He didn’t trust anyone. He didn’t even believe that an artificial limb and exercises would help him walk.”

    “During counseling, we showed him some videos of people with disabilities who have achieved milestones in their lives through rehabilitation care, like walking, going to school, working and dreaming big,” Baral adds.

    The counseling helped Sandip understand the power of rehabilitation and realize his own potential. Sandip is determined and making massive improvements. After just four days with his new artificial limb, he found it easy to walk by himself with the parallel bar. Through a 15-day process, Sandip learned how to use his artificial limb through. He completed gait training and learned to balance, stand, shift weight, sit and stand from a chair, and go up and down stairs.

    “Training to walk with my new limb is hard work and sometimes painful, but I am confident that when it is over, it will be okay,” he told us.

    Sandip’s parents now see a positive future for him. They have seen a change in their son’s attitude, and now Sandip smiles and shares his ambitions and his love of learning.

    “Now, I want to read and get help to improve my mobility,” Sandip explains. “Education is my new ambition! I need to study hard so I can get a job and become independent. I have to turn my dreams into reality. I plan to open a mobile repair shop or start working after I complete my education.”

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  • Myanmar | Humanitarian crisis worsens

    Since the political events of February 2021, the humanitarian situation has deeply deteriorated in Myanmar. Armed violence, combined with political, economic and Covid-19 crises, has created serious humanitarian needs, says Jérôme Bobin, Humanity & Inclusion’s Program Director in Myanmar. Bobin explains the situation:

    Today, a staggering 14.4 million people need humanitarian assistance, compared to 1 million people at the beginning of 2021; humanitarian needs have just skyrocketed. At least 13% are people with disabilities, who are particularly exposed to violence, discrimination, lack of access to information and greater barriers to receiving medical and humanitarian services.

    Among the main humanitarian issues, estimations show that 48% of the population may soon live in poverty, due to the disrupted economy that led to food insecurity for a large part of the population. World Food Program estimates that 3.4 million people will require food assistance over the next six months. Many injured people and people with disabilities cannot access immediate treatment, rehabilitation care and assistive devices, facing risks of life-long physical and psychosocial consequences.

    This last year, we have also seen an increase in the use of landmines and explosive devices in Myanmar. This is causing new casualties and putting a strong threat on some communities that were not used to live in contaminated areas, as well as on displaced people who have been forced to move due to the numerous clashes. According to UNOCHA, nearly 290,000 people have been internally displaced across Myanmar since February 2021, in addition to the 370,000 people already living in protracted displacement.

    Humanity & Inclusion’s response

    Despite the complexity of the situation and the specificities of each region, Humanity & Inclusion has continued providing early childhood development activities to internally displaced children, as well as rehabilitation services, such as physical therapy and distribution of assistive devices.

    We also have distributed non-food and food items to communities, and provided mental health and psychosocial support to people affected by both the Covid-19 pandemic and the security crisis.

    We adapted our explosive ordnance risk education activities to reach and inform communities at risk. We also continued offering assistance for survivors of landmines, with some livelihood support.

    Initiated under the first wave of Covid-19 in Myanmar, we contributed to the development and adaptation of teaching tools to make sure that children with disabilities had access to education. As part of a long-lasting, multi-stakeholders disaster preparedness project, Humanity & Inclusion was also able to support its partners in the provision of emergency medical assistance and personal protective equipment.

    Finally, we worked closely with local and international partners, as well as donors, to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in global humanitarian assistance and to enhance the accessibility of services.

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  • Mine Ban Treaty | The fight against landmines is not over

    Enacted 25 years ago, the Mine Ban Treaty has been a major step forward in international humanitarian law. But there is a long way to go to eradicate landmines. Anne Héry, Humanity & Inclusion’s Advocacy Director, explains the history of the fight to ban landmines and the ongoing challenges. 

    Q: Why are landmines banned?

    A landmine is triggered by its victim, which is the very definition of landmine: you walk on a landmine, a plate presser triggers and causes an explosion, for example. It is indiscriminate; a landmine cannot differentiate between a soldier and a civilian. More than 80% of landmine victims are civilians.

    Landmines are also cruel weapons. Landmines kill or inflict life-long injuries that may cause permanent disabilities. They blow off its victims' legs, feet, toes and hands—and may destroy their eyesight; Many landmine victims require their injured limb to be amputated. Landmines are designed to mutilate.

    Q: What are the consequences of the presence of mines after a conflict?

    A landmine laid during a conflict remains active decades after the end of hostilities. A large number of victims are killed or injured years after the conflict in their country has ended. Fights are over but the mines are still there. Presence of mines also has serious economic and social consequences. Communities are deprived of their contaminated land they depend upon like farmland, and water points may no longer be accessible.

    Q: 25 years after the Mine Ban Treaty Treaty was signed, can we say we have won the fight against landmines?

    The number of casualties decreased after the treaty entered into force, but we are now facing new challenges with recent increasing uses of landmines, specifically the increasing use of improvised landmines—or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that function as landmines when they are victim-activated. More than 7,000 people were injured or killed by landmines in 2020, according to the Landmine Monitor 2021. Of them, one-third were victims of improvised landmines. A high number of landmine casualties have been recorded six years in a row following a sharp 15-year decline.

    Landmines are not weapons of the past for the victims; we need to continue providing meaningful assistance to people who are injured, family members of those injured or killed, as well as affected communities. In many countries declared mine-free, victims still need assistance for the rest of their lives: medical care, rehabilitation, social and financial support. Only 14 States have victim assistance programs or disability plans in place to address recognized needs and gaps for people injured by landmines.

    Q: What is the Mine Ban Treaty?

    The Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, is signed by 164 states parties and includes a series of obligations. The first obligation is to stop to use, production and trade of landmines. States that have contaminated lands are also obliged to clear their territory of landmines, giving each country a 10-year deadline to do so. Since the adoption of the treaty in 1997, more than 30 States Parties have now cleared their territory. Clearance operations are underway in 35 other States, although most have had to request an extension of their original 10-year deadlines.

    States are also committed to assisting landmine victims, most of whom are located in countries with very limited health and physical rehabilitation facilities. Victim assistance in the Ottawa Treaty was a major step forward. It includes the need for adapted medical assistance, rehabilitation services for the direct victims, and social and financial supports for families can bear the consequences of landmine accidents.

    States parties also are required to destroy their stockpiled landmines. Prior to the adoption of the treaty, more than 130 States were reported to have such weapons. Since then, states parties have destroyed more than 55 million stockpiled landmines.

    Q: What’s next for the landmine advocacy?

    Although it has not been signed by all states in the world, the Mine Ban Treaty has become an internationally recognized and respected norm. But still, 35 states remain non-signatories of the Ottawa Treaty, including the United States, Russia, and China. A concerted and renewed universalization effort is essential to bring these states on board and reach the objective of a mine-free world.

    We also have to work with non-states armed groups, as they are the main users of improvised mines, to incite them to bind by the humanitarian law and the Ottawa Treaty. Some NGOs like Geneva Call are specialized in mediation with non-states armed groups. We’re not naïve; we know with some groups it would be very difficult but we have had some success in the past.

    There is still a lot of to do in terms of victim assistance. In many countries, people who have survived a mine incident may not have the appropriate medical care or services, including functional artificial limbs and psychosocial support. This area needs to be developed. We also need to strengthen their rights, as landmine victims often face difficulty in accessing the labor market, education, culture, sports, and more. States parties to the treaty need to develop support programs for mine survivors and affected families, especially inclusive education, livelihoods, small business or regular employment.

    Finally, with the Ottawa Treaty, States have agreed to free the world of mines. We will continue to take on their obligation to increase their efforts to reach this important goal!

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