Mainstream Association Visit to Pakistan 14-19 January, 2014
The Mainstream Association is an inspiring organization of persons with disabilities in Japan and has a history of developing leaderships amongst persons with disabilities in Asian and European countries. The Mainstream Association exceptionally works on cross disabilities with its professional approach towards disabilities and the attendant system for severe persons with disabilities. It is a great source of learning.
The Mainstream has history of having close ties with Milestone Society for the Special Persons in Pakistan and their yearly visit proves to be a source of sharing the scenario and activities of the Milestone in disability movements concerning Independent Living for persons with disabilities. The delegation of 7 leaders in the leadership of Mr. Satoshi Sato visited Milestone from 14th to 19th January, 2014. The delegates included Mr. Satoshi Sato San, Mr. Dai San, Mr. Kirima San, Mr. Yanasai San, Ms. Zakki San, Ms. Harauchi San and Ms. Yamaguchi San.
The Milestone Society for the Special Persons is the largest and most active organization of persons with disabilities in Pakistan. It has served persons with disabilities for the last 21 years and enjoys the status of introducing the Independent Living philosophy to persons having disabilities in general and persons with severe disabilities, in particular. It is a fact that with efforts of the Milestone there is ray of positive change in the society, as it is continuously producing leaders who are agents of change in Pakistan. For achieving this mission and noble goals, the great contribution and generous support from Mainstream Association can never be denied.
The Milestone Society for the Special Persons paid warm welcome to the Mainstream Association at Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, on 14th January. Slogans were enchanted for the long association of the Mainstream Association and the Milestone Society for the creation of a rights-based, barrier-free and inclusive society for all.
The respected delegation visited the Milestone’s current office where a discussion on disability scenario in Pakistan was observed and it was resolved to keep making efforts for the creation of an inclusive and rights-based society. Then a presentation on the Milestone’s activities was made to unfold the situation of persons with disabilities in Pakistan.
The delegation made a visit to the Long Cherished Milestone New Office that was under construction. It was pleasure to announce that the building was near completion and we were achieving our goal soon.
The Mainstream Association appreciated the efforts of the Milestone and their commitment to having their own facility where they are able to serve persons with disability in the best possible manner. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that in the coming month the Milestone will be shifted to its new own office and it will be operated with more zeal and zest.
Akhuwat was established in 2001 with the objective of providing interest free microfinance to the poor so as to enhance their standard of living. Drawing on the principles of social justice and brotherhood, Akhuwat strives to alleviate poverty by creating a system based on mutual support in society. To this end, Akhuwat has adopted microfinance as its operational strategy with the loans being offered in accordance with the doctrines of Qarz-e-Hassan. Akhuwat levies no interest on its loans, operates through religious places and seeks to inspire and harness the spirit of volunteerism in society. The mandate of Akhuwat extends beyond financial transactions as it makes every effort to guide, support and empower the poor.
The Mainstream and the Milestone attended a scheduled meeting with Dr. Amjad Saqib, Executive Director of Akhuwat, discussed mutual partnership and supporting areas. It was decided that a project would be launched very soon on the provision of Independent Living services to 100 Persons with disabilities in Lahore. This would be further extended throughout the country. The Milestone and Mainstream association would be sharing their expertise on Independent Living with Akhuwat in project.
Ms. Shamsa Kanwal, a former Duskin Trainee and President of Saffiya Independent Living Center, has established an Independent Living center in her native city of Sialkot. Being a blind woman with disability she has vision and commitment to serve persons with disabilities. The Milestone has history of supporting DPOs.
The delegates of the Mainstream Association along with the Milestone attended the one-day seminar at Sialkot Chamber of Commerce. They encouraged the dignities at the chamber to support and facilitate persons with disabilities with the Saffiya Independent Living Center and create a good example which other cities will be able to follow.
The Milestone Society conducted a one-day International Training Program at the Milestone Office where the ‘Attendant’ (Personal Assistant) experts from the Mainstream shared their professional techniques of attending persons with different types of disabilities. In the first session lectures were delivered by the delegate members on empowering persons with disabilities and moreover the importance of attendance services for persons with severe disabilities. While Japan has a system of paying attendants, Pakistan does not, and its government must be encouraged to adopt this system as it will protect the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to be treated and accepted based on equality and respect, and enable them to come contributing part of society as their non-disabled counterparts.
Dr. Shahnawaz Munami, National Coordinator of the Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) Network Pakistan, graced the occasion as Chief Guest and said that the government of Pakistan will be encouraged and sensitized to establish a system of the provision of attendant services to persons with disabilities, like in Japan. He appreciated efforts made by the Milestone on advocating this system in Pakistan.
Mr. Asim Zafar, Secretariat Coordinator of the CBID Network Pakistan and President of the Saaya Association, also graced the occasion with his presence and speech. He said that the Milestone was his mother organization and the Mainstream Association was his teacher, as he learned how to serve persons with disabilities during the training program run by the Mainstream Association in Japan a few years back. He said that the Saaya Association had developed the system of attendant services and 12 persons with severe disabilities were being provided with this service in Islamabad.
The Mainstream Association provided training to 20 attendants, both female and male, that day.
Following the tradition of the Milestone to entertain its guests after hectic days, a routine cooking evening was celebrated where the Milestone staff members cooked delicious Continental Dishes. Music was also played to entertain the guests.
The Sikh Kebabs with raita, plain rice with tikka boti won hearts of all. The food was delicious like the participants and the fantastic recipe and cooking of Mr. Akmal and Mr. Sohaib made the guests to lick their fingers. The music colored the ight and everyone enjoyed a lot and shun the hectic tiredness of daylong activity.
A Seminar to highlight the problems and needs of persons with intellectual disabilities was held at Fountain House on Saturday, 18 January.
The seminar, organized by the Milestone, Fountain House and CBID Network Pakistan, was addressed by Dr. Muhammad Amjad Saqib, Executive Director Akhuwat, Dr. Maryam Mallick, disability adviser, WHO and Dr. Shahnawaz Munami, national coordinator, CBID Network Pakistan.
The focus of the seminar was to on how to sensitize parents and teachers as well as society regarding Independent Living of persons with intellectual disabilities. A Japanese delegation from the Mainstream Association also attended the seminar and shared their experiences.
The speakers referred to problems and challenges commonly faced by persons with disabilities in the world and said that there were certain measures and systems that could be followed. In countries like Japan and the US, persons with disabilities enjoy independent life with full dignity and equal status. They are treated and accepted as the equally respectable part of society, the speakers said, adding, “We must stop this ubiquitous discrimination in Pakistan and create an inclusive development for all.”
Dr. Maryam Mallick, Disability Advisor for the World Health Organization (WHO), appreciated the efforts of Milestone and CBID Network for this seminar and said that role of the Mainstream Association was commendable and the leaders from the Mainstream were a great source of learning. She showed commitment that the WHO was there to support disability movements in Pakistan and said, “We are heading towards inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for all.”
The delegation made visit to WAGHA BORDER between Pakistan and India to see the flag ceremony which is held daily in the afternoon. They observed the flag changing ceremony and watched slogans “Pakistan Zindabad.”
A savor traditional dinner was arranged at famous traditional Food Street, Lahore, where a discussion on different disability issues was also made during dinner. The greetings were made and remarks were passed for the honored visit of the Mainstream Association in Pakistan. The Milestone owns its relation with the Mainstream Association.
After the 5 day long visit to Pakistan, the Mainstream delegates departed back to Japan. The Milestone people bade their Mainstream friends a farewell with the commitment to continue working for the creation of a barrier-free, rights-based and inclusive society for all.
“THANK YOU, MAINSTREAM ASSOCIATION IN JAPAN”