Caritas Czech Republic has been addressing the disability issue for years aiming at protecting the rights of persons with disabilities (PwDs) and providing them with proper service. Since 2022, together with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Georgia Country Office, we are carrying out a project that will support the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) under the Joint Programme “Leave No One Behind — From Policy and Principles to Practice in Disability-Inclusive Development in Georgia”. To this end, UNFPA Country Office and Caritas Czech Republic held a meeting with the representatives of the Parliament of Georgia and the PwD community to discuss the challenges the latter meets in healthcare sector and initiate respective changes in Georgian healthcare legislation.
Why Changes in Georgian Healthcare Legislation are Important
Persons with Disabilities are still facing various challenges when accessing health and social care services in Georgia. This concerns not only physical access to healthcare facilities but also other barriers such as attitudes and stigmas, and lack of respective skills among healthcare professionals. To address this problem, UNFPA Georgia Country Office and Caritas Czech Republic, with financial support of UNPRPD Multi-Partner Trust Fund, are working on a project aiming at strengthening the foundation for equitable and inclusive access to high-quality and gender-sensitive healthcare services for PwDs, delivered in accordance with international human rights standards.
Within the framework of the project, on June 23, 2022, UNFPA Georgia Country Office and Caritas Czech Republic held a meeting with the representatives of the Parliament of Georgia to discuss the rights of persons with disabilities in healthcare and initiate changes to harmonize the Georgian legal framework to the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Notably, the discussion involved individuals with disabilities who presented recommendations based on their personal experiences.
At the event, opening speech was delivered by Lela Bakradze, Head of the UNFPA Georgia Country office who said that healthcare legislation and policy in Georgia appear to be less responsive to special needs and vulnerabilities of PwDs, whereas women and girls with disabilities are facing challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health services:
“Discriminatory language and approaches remain in healthcare legislation. Therefore, UNFPA joins forces with its partners, experts and persons with disabilities and our efforts will support equality and non-discrimination and accessibility preconditions for inclusive healthcare services for PwDs.”
Afterward, Jan Blinka, Head of Mission of Caritas Czech Republic greeted the audience and noted that human rights is one of the cross-cutting issues across Caritas Czech Republic’s work and we are glad to have an opportunity to further work on protecting the rights of persons with disaibilities within this project:
“Caritas Czech Republic has been working on disability issues for around 12 years, trying to bring about the changes at various level from the policy to service development, capacity building of professionals as well as raising public awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities. With the project implemented in partnership with UNFPA Georgia Country Office, our organization will further work on promoting accessibility to the rights-based healthcare services for persons with disabilities (PwDs).” – Jan Blinka, Head of Mission of Caritas Czech Republic.
Rati Ionatamishvili, a Member of the Legal Issues Committee of the Parliament of Georgia considers it very important providing women and girls with disabilities with an access to health services at all levels of the law. Ionatamishvili emphasized the importance of having constant communication about mentioned with the organizations representing persons with disabilities, also with international partners and community experts:
“That is why I welcome the joint project of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Caritas Czech Republic. In the Parliament of Georgia, we are ready to implement any initiative aimed at strengthening the values and principles of the CRPD and develop effective enforcement mechanisms.”
At the meeting, Nutsi Odisharia, Social Program Officer of the UNFPA Georgia Country Office, spoke about the ongoing and planned activities within the project “Leave no one behind — from policy and principles to practice in disability-inclusive development in Georgia”. Afterward, Tamar Kurtanidze, projects manager of Caritas Czech Republic stressed the importance of the project’s direction led by Caritas Czech Republic and noted that this is the first initiative in Georgia related to disability, human rights and bioethics which hopefully will have a continuation in the future due to its importance and for staying in line with current debates in the field internationally.
The second part of the event was dedicated to the working group meeting and discussion – event participants, including community and organizations of persons with disabilities, talked about the legislative initiatives and the ways needed to harmonize the Georgian legal framework with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Project Addresses the Gaps of Georgian Healthcare Legislation
Even though in the last 25 years many changes were achieved concerning the protection of human rights in the Georgian healthcare system, there are still some gaps in Georgian healthcare legislation that requires harmonization with international contemporary practices and models of disability. With this in mind, the joint initiative of Caritas Czech Republic and UNFPA Georgia aims to ensure the revision of the legal foundations to ensure the development of gender and disability-sensitive standards of practices during the provision of medical services including sexual and reproductive health services.
The project will last for two years. In 2022, UNFPA Georgia and Caritas Czech Republic teams will work on analyzing and revision of health legislation and providing recommendations to the Parliament of Georgia for initiation of relevant legislative changes and to align them with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) principles. Noteworthy, in our project’s working group the persons with disabilities who have expert knowledge of the human rights issues will be represented to voice their respective recommendations. The amendments will address the Law on Rights of the Patients, the Law on Healthcare and the Law on Medical Practice and other respective normative acts.
Afterward, in 2023, the project will also support the capacity-building of the healthcare professionals through revision of training and educational materials and building the capacities of professors so that they can pass this knowledge to their medical students and colleagues to deliver gender, and disability-sensitive quality health services, including sexual and reproductive services for PwDs.
Caritas Czech Republic Advocates for the Rights of PwDs for Years
Through various projects, Caritas Czech Republic has been advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, their social inclusion and accessibility to quality healthcare and social services for years. Within the framework of various donor-funded projects, our interventions were related to the development of pediatric long-term and palliative care services, as well as the establishment of regulations/standards for children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Georgia.
One of the main projects our organization currently carries out with the financial support from the Czech Development Agency, aims to support the deinstitutionalization process of PwDs, meaning the development of the necessary strategy and action plan for the deinstitutionalization process in Georgia and the provision of community-based homes and services for persons with disabilities.
Within that effort, our experts in the field, in close cooperation with Czech colleagues and project partners’ representatives, identified the main areas of work, assessed the needs and interests of the target beneficiaries residing in large boarding homes, and prepared relevant legislative initiatives for the Government of Georgia. As a result, in 2022, some of the beneficiaries living in large boarding houses in Dusheti and Martkopi will move to new family-style homes that are currently being rehabilitated by Caritas Czech Republic.
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