“Nothing about us, without us.”
This catchphrase, created by N.O.L.A. (Nuanua O le Alofa), the National advocacy organisation of people with disabilities, certainly came true on the second, and last day of their National Youth Forum.
The Forum was held in order to raise awareness for young, disabled members of the society by giving every attending member of the event a voice to speak out about the situation and the issues young handicapped people have to face in their everyday life.
“Our forum here can definitely be described as successful for the young and disabled members of our society,” explained Mata’afa Faatino Utumapu, Office Manager of N.O.L.A. to Weekend Observer on the event’s closing day.
“Those young people could increase their understanding in terms of income generated activities and services which are available for them, and they were also able to experience and identify the commitment that is provided for them from the governmental side.”
This commitment mentioned by Ms Utumapu was one of the main parts of the Forum’s second day. Several speeches were held to explain and extend the role of young, disabled people in society, as for instance done by Maotaoalii Kaioneta Kitiona, Police Detective Inspector and Media Officer of the Samoan Ministry of Police.
During his short presentation at the Youth Forum, he informed the attendants about the most common forms of discrimination which young, disabled people have to face, including for instance domestic violence or voyeurism in public. He explained to the participants, which rights and regulations in particular secure their sanctity as a fully accepted member of society and also pointed out on which legal provisions these rights are routed.
“A main part of the presentation given by the Ministry of Police today dealt with demonstrating how domestic violence against disabled people can be prevented, because these represent some of the general offences against handicapped people, especially at a young age,” the Police Detective Inspector told.
As he stated, Samoa “already has a lot of such programmes available, sponsored by the government and its ministries, to deal with all different disabilities and their social awareness.”
Concerning the recent Youth Forum, Inspector Kitiona spoke of an extraordinary benefit provided for disabled people: “It has to be our priority to let the members of our society with special needs know that they are treated equal to everybody else.
Therefore, the providing of prevention measures in terms of violence or any kind of discrimination for them is one of our main tasks for today and I think this has been really helpful so far.”
The forum’s programme also contained a speech given by Mr Manusamoa Anthony Saaga of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, in which he informed the attendees about facilitating accessible communications for disabled people.
For the participants of the Youth Forum, their attendance turned out to be a highly profitable one, as Mr Ari Hazelman, who, together with his friend Setu Tiatia had visited the event, explained: “We were able to learn a lot during the last two days and this knowledge definitely will help us a lot, especially in terms of dealing with society or our environment in general.”
According to Ms Mata’afa Faatino Utumapu of N.O.L.A., the different items on the Youth Forum’s agenda helped to “celebrate diverse achievements in terms of young people’s disabilities, but also to identify barriers which still need to be subdued to advocate those people.”
Regarding future plans to assure that the newly gained awareness for disabled people in Samoa will stay relevant, Ms Utumapu already mentioned a “platform, that will be shared and will guide the work of the group as well as [N.O.L.A. ’s] work to make sure that young people with disabilities are getting the right amount of attention they deserve.”