Blog by Faaolo Utumapu-Utailesolo
Earlier this month, we converged at Nadi, Fiji, at a groundbreaking gathering of organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) from across the Pacific. This gathering celebrated a uniquely Pacific movement for inclusion—one that’s deeply embedded in our rich cultures and heritage and our fervent desire for justice. From Bougainville to Palau, disability advocates gathered to share stories, songs, strategies, and challenges they steadfastly surmount for inclusion.
The Disability Rights Fund (DRF) collaborated with our long-term partner, the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF), to host our first grantee convening in the region since 2019! “I am a proud person from the Pacific to witness this convening. This is a homegrown disability rights movement,” remarked Setareki S. Macanawai, CEO of PDF and board member of DRF.
So, what made this gathering extraordinary? Here are some remarkable highlights:
- The grantee convening gathered 32 organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) from 11 Pacific Islands nations!
- We were thrilled to be joined by the Disability Pride Hub, the very first LGBTQI-led OPD in the Pacific. See video below.
- We committed to accessibility by recruiting sign language interpreters who signed in six sign languages— Fiji, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and American Sign Language!
- We celebrated the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Solomon Islands this year.
- We were energized to see an abundance of women-led OPDs in the Pacific working on the intersection of inclusion, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), psychosocial health, climate justice, and more.
- An impressive 30% of the advocates at the gathering were youth with disabilities—a promising sign for the future.
- We celebrated human diversity in the Pacific and committed to building unity, learning from each other, and collaborating mindfully.
As a proud Samoan woman with a disability, I am filled with joy witnessing our shared power and unity at this Pacific grantee convening. We have come a long way, and our journey is far from over to realize our bold Pacific visions for inclusion. We are on fire, and we will not be left behind! Now, it’s time for donors and development actors to break their silos and deliver on their promises on intersectionality!
Watch and share this video featuring Eve Naqio, a trans woman and deaf advocate, who is the spirited project officer for the Disability Pride Hub. As one of the leaders of the very first LGBTQI-led disability rights organization in the Pacific, Eve is a trailblazing advocate for inclusion. Read the descriptive transcript here.