Social Rights and Research Association (Toplumsal Haklar ve Araştırmalar Derneği – TOHAD) is receiving a grant from our Children’s Fund to form a network among children where they can discuss issues regarding children’s rights with each other.
Read the interview below:
Social Rights and Research Association (Toplumsal Haklar ve Araştırmalar Derneği – TOHAD) is receiving a grant from our foundation for the first time. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of your association?
Since its establishment in 2008, TOHAD has been working on the rights violations of individuals with disabilities. Since 2015, we are working to make the problems of children with disabilities visible and to support their right to participate.
TOHAD provides trainings to civil society organisations (CSOs) and holds a civil society academy for young people focusing on discrimination and the rights of the people with disabilities. TOHAD also carries out monitoring and reporting activities on the rights of the disabled (education, health, accessibility, employment, rehabilitation and violence), and provides support for administrative and legal application processes in rights violations cases.
Being one of the founding members of the Disabled Child Rights Network in 2016, TOHAD works to empower children with disabilities by establishing a self-advocacy group. TOHAD is also a board member of the Partnership Network for the Prevention of Violence against Children. It supports the CSOs in this network to be informed about the rights of people with disabilities and violence against children with disabilities.
Although people with disabilities are equal citizens under the law, in practice, we see that they are constantly subject to discrimination.
You recently published the 2020 Disability Rights Monitoring Report. Can you tell us about the content of the report? What are the most common challenges disabled children and their caregivers face in Turkey?
We conducted the Disability Rights Monitoring Study in 2020 with the support of the Hrant Dink Foundation. We investigated the physical-sexual violence, ill-treatment and abuse that disabled people are experiencing. Moreover, we looked into the extent to which disabled people can live independently, participate in social life and make use of social protection rights as well as the quality of the services provided to them.
Although people with disabilities are equal citizens under the law, in practice, we see that they are constantly subject to discrimination and face difficulties participating in social life. We found in our study that the difficulties they face or crimes committed against them range from sexual-physical violence to problems in the implementation of the laws to limitations of mobility and access to rehabilitation rights.
It is necessary to make the institutions and organisations in Turkey acknowledge people with disabilities as subjects of rights, as required by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the provisions of the Law on the Disabled No. 5378. Although some CSOs and public institutions have been working to achieve this goal by mainstreaming the issue, we need better cooperation to raise awareness.
With the Disabled Rights Advocacy Information Module project, you launched the Petition for the Disabled website. Can you tell us about this website and the support it provides to people with disabilities?
The Disabled Rights Advocacy Information Module project is a semi-interactive website that provides information to CSOs and people with disabilities, on how to access certain rights. This project is a first in its field with the feature mentioned above. Basic information on the rights of the people with disabilities, discrimination, access to legislation, or advocacy methods is available on the website. We also provide information on the conditions, means and follow-up procedures for using these methods. On our website, we give instructions on advocacy, official information requests to public institutions, applications to administrative courts, ombudsman institutions, or the public prosecutor’s office, especially in discrimination cases.
During the Child’s Human Rights event held at the Boğaziçi University, children asked: “Why is it always adults talking about children’s issues?”
With our grant support, you are implementing the Child’s Voice Partnership Network project. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of the project?
Our project was planned for a period of 5 months. The team members are Zeynep Erdiller Yatmaz, Seran Demiral, İdil Seda Ak, Ersoy Erdemir and Serpil Açıkalın. The project consists of three phases, these are:
1) To communicate with children who are in contact with CSOs and public institutions working in the field of children. This activity aims to learn how children’s rights resonate in these children’s minds and to determine the content of the winter school that we will organise.
2) In the second phase, we aim for a participatory attendance of around 30 children between the ages of 7-16 in our winter school. We plan to include at least 30% disabled or refugee children. During the winter school, children will receive trainings in philosophy and creative drama and discuss problems they face in their homes and neighbourhoods as well as current human rights issues.
3) In the third phase, children participating in the winter school will carry out activities in other schools to disseminate what they have learned during this intense interaction process. Thus, these learned and shared experiences will be transferred to other students by the children themselves. This way, the project will reach a wider circle of students.
This project emerged as a result of a previous one carried out by Boğaziçi University in 2020, which aimed to put child participation and rights-based advocacy in practice, into a more comprehensive and widespread project to ensure its sustainability. Our primary goal here is to establish a cooperation network among children, share the reflections of children’s rights in daily life, and support the transformation of children into subjects with a voice in their own lives. During the Child’s Human Rights event held at the Boğaziçi University in 2018, participating children asked: “Why is it always adults talking about children’s issues?” and expressed their desire to communicate with other children and benefit from their experience. As a result, we immediately decided to embark on a project focusing on children’s rights and especially children’s right to participate.
Our main goal is to enable children to talk about their rights with each other.
The children participating in the Winter School will share their experiences with their peers from different schools and institutions. What is your reason for choosing this method for the project’s dissemination?
Children should be the subjects of child participation. Our role in establishing this cooperation network among children is facilitation, and our responsibility is to use the tools at our disposal to ensure children’s best interests. Our main goal is to enable children to talk about their rights with each other. Therefore, we wanted to leave the dissemination phase of the project entirely to the children’s leadership and initiative. We expect the 30 children who will attend the Winter School to gain awareness about children’s rights and to show progress in areas such as self-confidence and initiative-taking. We also expect a change in the awareness of the children who will be the indirect beneficiaries of the project, who will be reached out by the 30 children attending the Winter School.
Moreover, we expect that children will be able to see the concrete reflections of children’s rights in their lives and will be encouraged to be more demanding in this regard. Thus, it will be possible to create a communication network among children in the coming years. As they get older, they can take responsibility and initiative within this network and share their experiences with younger children.
Aiming to eliminate rights violations faced by people with disabilities since 2008, TOHAD has been working since 2015 to increase the visibility of the challenges that children with disabilities face and support their right to participate.