Higher Education Programme – Country Champion Programme
The ICEVI underlined the need to mobilize leadership among youth with visual impairment in all regions to become change agents who can influence policy and program development at country and community levels. The first country champions program took place in Manila in June 2017, with 30 graduates and students from higher education institutes across the Philippines in attendance. A model program schedule was created which encouraged the participants to speak about the empowerment opportunities for persons with visual impairment in the Philippines, and the barriers they need to overcome in school, employment and in society in general. Employers, representatives from parent bodies, the Government and the organization of disabled persons were involved in the program. As a result of the program, the participants have decided to form a pressure group to influence policy change at all levels in the Philippines, and to serve as role models to influence parents to send their children with visual impairment to school.
The program was replicated by the Blind Peoples’ Association, Ahmedabad India in December 2017, with 25 students in attendance. Similar programs have taken place in Cambodia in February 2018, Fiji in July 2017, and Nepal in August 2018. All of these programs were facilitated to bring out the strengths and abilities of young adults with visual impairments, and to develop their communication skills and foster the spirit of teamwork.
ICEVI is motivated by the outcomes of these country champion programs and plans to organise more in the years ahead. One of the objectives of the EFA-VI Global campaign is to create a demand for education through role models who are persons with visual impairment and the impact is evident from these country champion programs. The participants are being supported and encouraged to work as motivating change agents at the country level, and to communicate with parents, students with visual impairments, and with decision-makers in the educational and employment sectors to provide more opportunities for persons with visual impairment.
The participants of the Philippines country champion program are organizing a concurrent session at the ICEVI East Asia Regional Conference in Manila, Philippines in October 2018. They will share their views and plans for strengthening this program in the future. The program has demonstrated the power of self-advocacy and it is a credit to the young participants that the four programs to date have yielded such remarkable results.
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