A Symposium for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was held at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center on Friday, December 01, 2017. It was organized in support of changing the attitudes & approaches to persons with disabilities in Palau on a social as well as national level. The symposium was open to community partners, agencies, and individuals interested in contributing to the discussion about the rights of persons with disabilities.
The Palau CPRD Symposium opened with remarks from Republic of Palau Minister of State Faustina K. Rehuher-Marugg who spoke on behalf of President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. In her welcome, Minister Rehuher-Marugg highlighted the history of OMEKESANG—an organization that promotes disability awareness and protects the rights of persons with disabilities in Palau—and the stigmas associated with disability. In the past, the Palauan community often viewed disability as a misfortune that occurred because of supernatural causes (e.g., displeased deity/spirits or black magic). With modern-day medicine and recent scientific studies, Palauans are beginning to understand the conditions of persons with disabilities & their needs.
Minister Rehuher-Marugg encouraged awareness within the community regarding persons with disabilities. This could be in the form of social acts & communication (e.g., opening doors for an individual in a wheelchair) or requiring all public buildings to be accessible for persons with disabilities (e.g., ramps for wheelchairs). She also emphasized on the importance of including persons with disabilities in decision-making efforts, such as the development of policies and legislations that may affect their livelihood. As a community, she encouraged Palau to define disability in terms of its community’s needs and cultural significance.
Dr. Caleb Otto followed Minister Rehuher-Marugg with a presentation detailing information about the United Nations CRPD, the current state of disability assistance & awareness in Palau, and plans for the future.
The symposium featured panelists who discussed topics that affected persons of disabilities in Palau, specifically services & programs that focus on issues relevant to policy setting and recommendations for strengthening legislation made on behalf of disability. Featured panelists included Ms. Gynebra “Missy” Kinto and Ms. Tessy Nobuo as persons with disabilities; Ms. Victoria Maui represents family/caregiver; Ms. Helen Sengebau, Special Education Coordinator, Ministry of Education (MOE); Dr. Sylvia Osarch of the Ministry of Health (MOH); Ministry of Community & Cultural Affairs Director Melson Miko; Airai State Delegate Victoria Kanai; Senator Frank Kyota; Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil, Esq.; Palau Community College (PCC) President Patrick U. Tellei, EdD; and Dr. Caleb Otto.
Airai State Delegate Kanai and Senator Frank Kyota led a session about the perspectives of legislation development in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The session discussed the proposed Palau Disability Act and how the 10th Olbiil Era Kelulau (10th OEK) will review by consulting all community partners stakeholders. Attorney General Rengiil, Dr. Tellei, and Dr. Otto provided their support for the policy-makers in moving forward with this legislation. All partners & members of the community were encouraged to continue supporting disability developments in Palau. Attendants of the forum also participated in a workshop in order to learn more about CPRD and disability issues & developments in Palau as well as beyond.
In 2006, the United Nations adopted the CPRD in support of change regarding attitudes & approaches to persons with disabilities. The convention supports the inclusion of persons with disabilities on national & social levels. It also affirms that persons with disabilities are members of society who are entitled to human rights & fundamental freedoms.
A proclamation signed by the President of Palau signified December 03, 2017 as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for the day was “Omis el Okiu a Duch el Reng a Rulii a Beluu ma Lemuukel eng Meloseb a Tiul (Transformation Towards Sustainable and Resilient Society for All).”
The 2017 Palau CPRD Symposium was sponsored by the Republic of Palau Office of the President, Ministry of Community & Cultural Affairs (MCCA), Ministry of Health (MOH), OMEKESANG, Palau Parents Empowered, Palau Red Cross Society, Omellemel ma Ulkerreuil a Bedenged (OMUB), Coalition for a Tobacco Free Palau (CTFP), Ulkerreuil A Klengar (UAK), Belau Wellness Inc., Kotel A Deurreng, and Palau 24/7 Prayer & Worship Center. [/restrict]