Final Conference – Disability: A Matter of Perception

One day before the International Day of People with Disabilities, Media Diversity Institute (MDI) Western Balkans hosted the closing conference of our project, Disability: A Matter of Perception.

Disability: A Matter of Perception is a two year project in Macedonia, where we worked with Macedonian Institute for Media, National Council of People with Disability Organizations of Macedonia to train journalists and civil society organizations to revitalize the media as an essential space for marginalized groups. Over the course of two years, we organized trainings that resulted in numerous media articles and broadcasts, inspired interactive performances, and orchestrated campaigns that challenged stereotypes in Macedonia.

The project particularly pushes both journalists and civil society organizations to shift from understanding disability as a medical condition, to understanding it as a social identity which impacts how someone moves through the world.

At Monday’s event (organized alongside the Macedonian National Coordinative Body for Implementation of UNCRPD (UN Convention On the Rights of People with Disabilities), we examined the current state of disability rights in Macedonia, and discussed policy recommendations that resulted from our experience implementing the two year project. We also hosted a debate, titled “Disability: Public Visibility and the Image of People with Disabilities.”

“Combating discrimination is not only about changing laws. It is also about adopting measures to change attitudes and behaviours that stigmatise and marginalise persons with disability,” said European Union Ambassador Samuel Zbogar, who attended the event.

Northern Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was also in attendance, along with several other high profile ministers. Many of our beneficiaries attended as well, including both journalists and civil society organization representatives. Media Diversity Institute (MDI) expert on Media and Diversity Issues Mike Jempson also attended, and shared his international experience.

All in all, the closing conference was a moment to recognize how far the project has come, and how far we still have to go in improving media representations of people with disabilities in the Western Balkans.

“As government and civil society, we must work together to implement the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities to achieve a society with equal rights for all citizens,” said Minister Zoran Zaev.

“We must not be satisfied with what we have achieved,” he continued. “We must keep achieving.”

Nenad Radoja

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