Enabling indigenous people with disabilities to claim their rightful place in society and in decision making processes that impact their rights
A woman dressed in black stands in a sunny forest. She looks over her shoulder and holds a cane in one hand.

Olga Montúfar Contreras, Paso a Paso A.C. Foundation President. Photo credit: www.kiefelphotography.com

The Accomplishment 

Indigenous people with disabilities were made visible in Mexico and their voice was raised in the United Nations (UN) system. The greatest impact has been on the formulation of various documents developed between the UN and the indigenous movement that now include specific references to indigenous people with disabilities. A growing number of countries have made similar achievements affecting a range of policies, programs, and actions.

After the meeting I had with six indigenous people with disabilities from other parts of the world, the first document we created that focused on the issue was the Study of the Situation of Indigenous Persons with Disabilities.  It was followed by:

  • The final document from Alta, Norway
  • The World Conference of Indigenous Peoples (especially paragraph 9)
  • Access to justice for indigenous persons with disabilities
  • The world state of infancy 2013
  • The study of sexual and reproductive rights for persons with disabilities by the United Nations Commission on Population and Development
  • The Study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) for indigenous persons with disabilities
  • The Study by the Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities “Women with Disabilities”
  • Recommendations made by the Committee of the CRPD to the Mexican State

The above-mentioned are just some of the most salient texts and I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention an additional accomplishment of mine which was that in July of 2016 the Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism of Experts developed a day of discussion exclusively to address the violations of the rights of indigenous people with disabilities with a special focus on women and girls. As a result of this lobbying work the UN Voluntary Contributions Fund graciously recognized me as the Indigenous leader of Latin America and the Caribbean for advocacy with international impact.

Additionally, in the National Congress we are pushing for an agreement and an initiative that will guarantee that indigenous people with disabilities will not find themselves at a greater disadvantage than the rest of non-disabled indigenous people.

What Worked 

The process we used was simple and included the following steps:

  1. We looked for information on the situation of indigenous people with disabilities in Mexico and throughout the world. We sought to understand the dynamics of the indigenous rights movement at the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and among indigenous people with disabilities themselves. We reviewed agendas among the disability rights and indigenous rights movements to identify where agendas intersected and to determine the extent to which the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) could be involved, and interconnect to determine the extent of involvement of the CRPD Committee.
  2. We established the objective we wanted to achieve (i.e. participation in CRPD Committee).
  3. We identified, and sought to hold meetings with key people in both movements who shared similar values and goals.
  4. We took every opportunity to identify people who had decision-making power. Likewise, we selected places where our voices could have more impact, and we analyzed the characteristics of key leaders and their interests in relation to the CRPD.
  5. We reviewed results and analyzed how the achievements will influence key leaders and make the next steps stronger and achievable.
  6. We sent information to allies about the CRPD. We took every opportunity to consult civil society and also distribute the information that they share in turn.
  7. After each process, we reviewed progress and set a new goal.

The personal experience living as an indigenous person with a disability motivates me to insist that the CRPD includes us as part of humanity and recognizes our rightful place to participate in making decisions that concern us.

About the Author 

Olga Montúfar Contreras is President of the Fundación Paso a Paso A.C.  (Paso a Paso Foundation), representative of the Global Caucus and Focal Point of Latin America and the Caribbean for Indigenous Persons with Disabilities of UNFPII, and Member of the Global Network of Indigenous Persons with Disabilities.

Fundación Paso a Paso is an organization of and for indigenous people with disabilities. Created in 1993 it has participated in the most important moments in the movement for people with disabilities in Mexico.

Paso a Paso has its fiscal headquarters in the heart of the Huasteca region of Hidalgo with work centers in the municipality of Xochiatipan and Acaxochitlán. It has operational coordination centers in 11 states of the Mexican Republic from which it engages in advocacy in diverse indigenous communities around the country.

Since 2012 Paso a Paso has been the lead organization for Latin American and Caribbean regional policy for people with disabilities. It's considered to be the only organization of people with disabilities for people with disabilities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It has been the fiscal sponsor of five organizations for people with disabilities for setting up their legal structure, the principal objective having been to motivate youth and women with disabilities to become their own advocates.

One of its most recent accomplishments was the creation in 2008 of the first Coalition of Organizations for People with Disabilities in Mexico (COAMEX) for the purpose of developing the alternative report presented to the Committee of the Convention.  

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