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‘Society raises barriers’ for people with disabilities, say activists in Costa Rica

WorldAmericas and Canada'Society raises barriers' for people with disabilities, say activists in Costa Rica
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“I’m a homemaker and the daughter of a car painter,” Ms. Meysen, a Nicaraguan activist, describes herself as she sits behind her office desk in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica where she now lives.

Born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that causes bones to break easily and damages hearing, muscles, teeth and spine, she uses a wheelchair.

“Being born with a disability is complicated, not just because of the disability itself, but because of all the barriers that society creates,” she said. “Historically and culturally, we have built a model of people. If someone breaks that model, we alienate them and create endless obstacles as we build society with that model.”

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She said that discrimination and lack of knowledge about the rights of persons with disabilities prevented her from attending nursery school. By elementary school, she said her mom was ready. Equal opportunities legislation was already in place, so when her mother contacted the Ministry of Education, she made sure her seven-year-old daughter could go to school.

A young Ms. Meesen found the staff and students committed to creating an inclusive environment. Her father designed a crib with wheels to accommodate her, as she could not sit upright due to her medical condition, and the school supported other accessibility efforts.

“It seems to have set a pattern in the school because the levels of inclusion were never established before,” she said.

She did not attend secondary school for health reasons, but she never stopped learning, painting and studying English; She also learned to make crafts and jewelry.

United Nations Costa Rica / Abril Morales

Disability in Costa Rica

More than 670,000 people, or 18 percent of the country’s population, live with a disability – 39 percent of men and 61 percent of women. Although most people with disabilities have access to social protection, Costa Rica still faces significant challenges in ensuring full rights to education and employment.

Currently, 56 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed.

At age 18, Ms. Meesen became an activist to promote the rights of persons with disabilities, focusing her efforts on social media rather than campaigning in person.

“My mother gave me all the tools to claim my rights; Nobody was going to do that for me,” she said.

By the time she was 22, she had become the first disabled person to be elected as a councilor for the borough of Goicochia in San Jose, a position she still holds.

“I saw politics as a platform to make activism more visible because I have always believed that activism and politics go hand in hand,” she said.

But, Ms. Mason never settles down. She wants to become an activist lawyer to protect human rights.

Ms Meesen’s story is an example of struggle and achievement, part of a collection of 20 stories in the book I am a disabled person in Costa Rica and this is my storyAvailable now Online in Spanish.

Part of a series of stories compiled in Costa Rica to raise awareness of the conditions of specific people and groups, and to share their aspirations, struggles, experiences, and valuable life lessons, earlier editions featured people of African descent and indigenous peoples. The voices are amplified. The next book in the series will feature stories from migrants.

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica Allegra Biocchi (left) and UNFPA country representative Juan Luis Bermudez welcome Nicole Messen to the UN.

UN Costa Rica / Danilo Mora

promote inclusion

Allegra Biocchi, UN Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica, said persons, families, communities, institutions and organizations with disabilities are currently leading the change by taking a people-centred approach to development.

“It is a great challenge for the United Nations, countries and societies to support groups who have experienced exclusion and faced extremely complex conflicts,” she said. “It is about listening to them, supporting them and affirming their aspirations for equality and social justice. Every day, we are learning how to ensure true inclusion and access for all people.”

He said this includes ensuring that people with disabilities have access to employment and leadership positions. latest this is my story The book recognizes persons with disabilities “who inspire us and encourage us to fight for equality, rights and well-being for all people”, he said.

“They teach us that if we do not close the gaps that are affecting them more deeply than the rest of Costa Rica, we will not be able to achieve sustainable development.”

When the book was released, Costa Rica’s Vice President, Marie Munive, said the government was committed to moving towards becoming a more inclusive country with more opportunities for all.

“We must guarantee that people with disabilities have access to quality education and jobs,” she said.

Ongoing efforts in Costa Rica include implementing the United Nations Disability Inclusion StrategyPromote advocacy and generate evidence and information for decision making.

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