The right to decide independently and how to advocate for it
The right to decide independently and how to advocate for it
30 January 2017
From 15th to 17th of January, the city of Varshetz hosted an interesting meeting-training of the representatives of the National Platform of Self-Advocates to the Bulgarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (BAPID). The platform brings together people with intellectual disabilities from all over Bulgaria, who make decisions independently and advocate for their own rights and the rights of others like them. They, along with their supporters, are promoters for change in the national legislation. It provides for the abolishment of guardianship, which will give them a chance and will recognize the right of every person to obtain the necessary support to make independent decisions about gis/her own lives without being excluded from society.

The Bulgarian Center for Not-for- Profit Law (BCNL), which is actively involved in the drafting of the Natural Persons and Support Measures Act, as well as the advocacy campaign accompanying it, participated in the training through its representatives Aylin Yumerova and Anna Adamova. They gave presentations on how laws in our country are being adopted and what are the best ways we can prepare for an advocacy meeting. The BCNL's team for years has been working to improve the skills of civil society organizations and human rights defenders to conduct successful advocacy initiatives, as one of the main ways to influence the decisions taken by the decision-makers. Self-advocacy, in turn, is the ability to speak up for yourself, from the perspective of your personal history, the problems that you have faced, and the ways in which you want them to be resolved. In practice, persons with intellectual disabilities are the true ambassadors of the necessity of introducing a system of supported decision-making measures for taking independent decisions that will put an end to the replacement of the will and preferences with someone else's. Therefore, part of BCNL's and BAPID's efforts are now focused for the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in various advocacy initiatives for the adoption of the Natural Persons and Support Measures Bill and turning them into successful self-advocates for their right to a decent life.

Here's what Aylin and Anna shared about the training in Varshets:

Aylin: "Talking about yourself and at the same time standing up for the rights of others like you is a real art. And what I saw and admired most was that these people have a great sense of community and a desire to express themselves, but above all – to be heard. They are super positive and their naturalness "infects" with optimism. Their dreams are as modest as they are - to work, to travel, to have a family ... These are things that they are supposed to have the right to do, but conditions put forward in the current law stop them. And they are quite capable and talented people, and all they need is a little support. And it was our task to support them to unleash their true potential."

Anna: "One of the main questions that were asked during the training was "How are you feeling?". I saw, heard and felt people who feel alive, supported and encouraged. Those who believe that it is possible for the legislature to recognize their right to make decisions about their lives and to lift the "lid" of guardianship under which it is difficult to thrive in modern society."
At the end of the meeting all participants built a symbolic network of support and promised perseverance in improving their self-advocating and advocacy skills.

Our participation in the initiative is within the framework of the "Next Step" Program, carrying out by the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law in partnership with BAPID, the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, with the financial support of "Open Society" Foundation Switzerland.

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