In a remarkable display of unity and purpose, Bhutan observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on 3 December, aligning with the global theme of “United in Action to Rescue and Achieve the SDGs for, with and by Persons with Disabilities.” Since 2015, Bhutan has been consistently commemorating this day not merely as a ritual, but as a platform to advocate for the rights and well-being of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) at all levels of society.
This year’s theme underscores the collective commitment to inclusivity, emphasizing the need for joint efforts to address emerging issues and challenges faced by PWDs, their families, and society at large. The collaborative spirit takes center stage as various organizations dedicated to supporting PWDs, including Ability Bhutan Society, Disabled People’s Organization of Bhutan, Phensem Parent Support Group, Bhutan Stroke Foundation, Royal Society for Senior Citizens, and Changangkha Middle Secondary School, have joined forces under the banner of ‘United We Stand.’
Phurpa Wangchuk, the National Junior Consultant and Disability Inclusion Focal Person, emphasized the importance of fostering a world that is not only inclusive but also accessible and equitable for all. He remarked, “This day serves as a powerful reminder of our collective responsibility to promote the rights and well-being of individuals with disabilities, fostering a world that is inclusive, accessible, and equitable for all.”
In a departure from past practices, these organizations are coming together to ensure better visibility, increased participation, and optimal utilization of scarce resources. The event, marked by the motto of ‘United We Stand,’ symbolizes a collective stride towards inclusive growth and a roadmap for PWDs’ integration into socio-economic development.
The joint effort aims to create an inclusive environment for PWDs, fostering their participation in public spaces and contributing to the nation-building process. The significance of this united front is underscored by the exclusive observance of the event among individuals with disabilities, relevant agencies, stakeholders, parents, caregivers, and senior citizens, highlighting the interconnectedness of the community in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable population.
Reflecting on the progress made in the field of disability inclusion, Phurpa Wangchuk acknowledged that there is still work to be done. He urged a moment of reflection on the achievements and a recognition of the challenges that persist. “The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an opportunity for us to reflect on the progress we have made and to acknowledge the work that still lies ahead. It is a call to action, urging us to dismantle the barriers that hinder full participation and inclusion,” he stated.
This year’s IDPD event is supported by Save the Children Bhutan Country Office, adding a layer of institutional backing to the collective endeavor. The organizations working for PWDs extend a sincere invitation to all media houses to join them in this celebration, emphasizing the importance of media support in promoting visibility and recognizing the significant contributions made collectively toward building an inclusive Bhutanese society, a society rooted in compassion and Gross National Happiness.
Meanwhile, Phurpa Wangchuk called for a collective pledge to work towards a world where everyone, regardless of ability, can lead a life of dignity and fulfillment. He portrayed the day as an opportunity to be architects of inclusivity, actively participating in tearing down the walls of exclusion and building bridges of understanding and acceptance.
As Bhutan unites for the IDPD, the collaborative efforts of these organizations stand as a testament to the country’s commitment to leaving no one behind, ensuring that the journey towards inclusivity is a shared and resolute one.