Is there social justice for people with disabilities? Evidence from Morocco and Tunisia

Trani, Jean-Francois; Bakhshi, Parul; Lopez, Dominique; Gall, Fiona; Jamaa, Abdellah (2014). 'Is there social justice for people with disabilities? Evidence from Morocco and Tunisia' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Disability has been addressed in the past decades in Morocco and Tunisia through religious and medical institutions mostly. Although Tunisia very early on, in the 1960's, introduced legislation on disability, the medical model dominated the approach to disability and economic support was ensured by religious institutions in both countries. With the ratification of the UNCRPD, both countries moved away from the charity and medical model towards the social model of disability that aims at adapting the social context to take into consideration the needs of persons with disabilities and address issues of social justice. Yet, both countries lack the capacity to address those needs and the civil society, particularly DPOs, supported by a few international NGOs, have been voicing their concern over the lack of inclusion in society of persons with disabilities. They have been also advocating for better public policies aiming at providing medical, social and economic support to persons with disabilities while delivering social and economic programs. Stakeholders in both countries have recognized the need for better information and knowledge in a context of scarcity of data available.  The void between the proclamation of rights of persons with disabilities in the UNCRPD and the lack of programs and policies to enhance those rights can be explained by the absence of relevant knowledge regarding the needs, aspirations and the living conditions of persons with disabilities.

Recent literature has shown that people with disabilities are poorer than non-disabled people and at higher risk to fall into poverty (Filmer, 2008; Mont & Cuong, 2011; Trani & Mont, 2012). Disability, in the capability perspective, can be considered as the deprivation of capabilities for persons with impairments (Mitra, 2006). Therefore, providing access to basic capabilities to persons with impairment might be a way to reduce prevalence of disability. A growing body of work examines the link between poverty as deprivation of basic capabilities and disability (Braithwaite and Mont, 2009; Mitra et al., 2013; Mont and Cuong, 2011; Trani et al., 2012). Yet, no study of such kind has been carried out about disability and poverty in Morocco and Tunisia.

We carry out between November 2013 and March 2014 a case control household based randomized survey in urban and rural areas of both countries in order to measure the gap in economic and social circumstances between persons with disabilities and non-disabled at individual and household level. To better mechanisms and processes of exclusion, we will also carry out focus group discussions.

The present study using a capability based multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis aims for a different approach to poverty reduction efforts. Poverty is defined as a deprivation in various dimensions of wellbeing. We argue with others that a capability approach perspective better includes insights for public policy that can be implemented by a large variety of actors and institutions (Chiappero-Martinetti & Moroni, 2007). Both Morocco and Tunisia experience widespread  poverty but are also challenged by insufficient human resources, budget constraints and widespread competing needs. There is therefore an urgent need for better identifying what the major domains of poverty are and who are the poorest of the poor.

Alkire & Foster (2011) poverty measure represents an interesting tool to better identify those. Additionally, the index decomposition property is highly valuable as it allows breaking down poverty by different subgroups. The methodology enables policy makers to (a) target the different deprivations affecting each subgroup and (b) target interventions and programmes towards those persons experiencing multiple deprivations; in turn improving aid effec- tiveness.

As expected the analysis illustrates extremely high levels of poverty. All individuals irrespective of age, gender, location, disability status, type and perceived cause of disability are deprived in at least one of the fourteen dimensions. Our analysis indicates that efforts need to be made primarily in generating employment opportunities, education and improving access to healthcare. Overall, our analysis reveals that those residing in rural areas, women, and persons with disabilities of all ages particularly women with disabilities are the poorest of the poor. Efforts to improve access to existing services and create opportunities for these vulnerable groups must acknowledge these inequalities.

The results indicate that greater attention needs to be directed towards women and persons with disabilities. Gender and power relations continue to restrict women's mobility impeding access to healthcare, economic and social opportunities. Discriminatory attitudes persist towards persons with disabilities due to a lack of awareness and knowledge, which significantly impacts psychological and subjective wellbeing. These are the most crucial issues to tackle and policy makers face a difficult challenge here. Increasing knowledge and awareness is a fundamental step in

challenging attitudes and improving access. The use of communication tools via the media has increased significantly and might constitute a solution in the current context of limited resources. It is one of the most powerful and feasible ways to sensitise the population making those who are most excluded more visible (Rolland, 2011). Challenging beliefs and improving access to services must involve religious and community leaders as they are highly influential and powerful actors. Fighting public stigma is the best way ahead to foster social justice for persons with disabilities in both countries.

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