In mid-March this year, ACT and UTAIM Tajerouine sent Manana and Helmi to Egypt to attend the self-advocacy regional training and forum, hosted by our partner Interact.
Manana and Helmi live in Tajerouine in western Tunisia, close to the Algerian boarder. Through our partnership with the local UTAIM, ACT has been working alongside them as part of our Advocacy and Inclusion for People with Disabilities Project.
The two participants were representing the Tajerouine Self-Advocacy Team. This is a group of adults with disabilities that are supporting each other, and challenging family, professional and educational assumptions about the roles and perceptions of people with disabilities in their community.
“Tamkeena – Empower us”
This was the theme of this gathering. An important focus and learning opportunity for a group of people who are so often powerless, fighting assumptions and discrimination in almost every area of their lives.
In addition to the Tunisian envoys, the event was also attended by many self-advocates and those who support them from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan.
Manana gave a few more details about what everyone got up to over the three-day event:
The first day was a day for getting to know each other. A presentation of the meaning and definition of self-advocacy, good support and the rights of persons with disabilities was given.
The second day was a rich day, with a series of workshops being run. Participants were divided into four smaller groups. Each workshop was on the subject of supporting the rights of people with special needs, and how the self-advocates and their supporters can contribute to raising awareness within the community about these rights. The group also shared experiences and expertise in a period of discussion.
On the third day, a new group of people with disabilities were invited from all over Egypt. The self-advocates were then encouraged to train them according to the topics they had received training on over the previous two days. It was a unique experience in terms of the formatting and interaction between the supporters.”
“It was a successful and organized experience. It was the first time we’d travelled abroad, and it was great to get to know self-advocates from different countries.
I benefited from the different experiences shared by others.
Another positive experience was the card system they used. You were given red and yellow cards to express a question or an opinion. The whole training emphasised respecting others. The use of cards really helped uphold this.
It was wonderful to feel like I was equal to everyone there. I did not feel that my disability was a weakness, but rather that it was a source of strength that enables me to defend my rights.
Plays and sketches were used, which helped relax us whilst at the same time encouraging us on how to defend our rights.
I learned the meaning of strong support, and how it encourages us and connects us. How it helps me to get all the information I need.
[Following this experience] I am changed. I used to refuse to speak up. Now I have the desire to share the experience with my friends.
If I could have added one thing, I would have organized an outing to visit some of the tourist sites Egypt is so famous for!”
ACT is grateful to Interact and all who made this training a possibility. We are excited to see how this training will continue to help shape people with disabilities to become self-advocates, growing in the knowledge of their rights and speaking up on their own behalf.