HIGHLIGHTS

  • In 1996, with seven colleagues in the development field, he organized the Center for Disability in Development (CDD), and became its executive director. Under his leadership, CDD tackled disability with a unique twin-strategy they called Community Approaches to Handicap in Development (CAHD).
  • Since its establishment, CDD has trained over ten thousand development workers from 350 organizations in Bangladesh, who can now provide services and create inclusion opportunities for persons with disabilities.
  • CDD operates centers and mobile units that provide information, counseling, and therapeutic services. It has established a National Resource Center in Assistive Technology, manufacturing and distributing orthosis and prosthesis devices, and training craftsmen to produce these devices.
  • CDD has trained organizations from numerous countries, and its CAHD strategy has been replicated in countries like Nepal, India, and the Philippines.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his pioneering leadership in mainstreaming persons with disabilities in the development process of Bangladesh, and in working vigorously with all sectors to build a society that is truly inclusive and barrier-free”.

 CITATION

Persons with disabilities constitute close to ten percent of the developing world’s population. They have little access to livelihood, education, medical services, and opportunities for a more productive life. Among the most disadvantaged groups in society, they are also the most vulnerable, particularly in the world’s poorest countries.

This is painfully true of Bangladesh, where there are an estimated thirteen million people with disabilities. Bangladesh has progressive policies on disability and a huge civil society. However, resources are meager; effective coordination is lacking; and groups focused on disability issues are few in number. Moreover, disability is still isolated as an area of special advocacy, rather than a cross-cutting issue of development.

A.H.M. Noman Khan and his organization have addressed this challenge. Like his father, Khan was in government service but opted to join a rural development organization because, he said, he wanted “to do something for the poor.” It was not, however, until 1995 – after attending a training program on community-based rehabilitation in Indonesia – that he decided to focus on the issues of disability. Prior to this, Khan says, he was not even aware that people with disabilities constituted such a sizeable sector of the Bangladesh population.

In 1996, with seven colleagues in the development field, he organized the Center for Disability in Development (CDD), and became its executive director. Under his leadership, CDD tackled disability with a unique twin-strategy they called Community Approaches to Handicap in Development (CAHD). This strategy involved, on one hand, strengthening the capacities of communities to serve the needs of their disabled members. And on the other hand, it sought to “mainstream” disability as an integral part of the development work of government and non-government organizations, so that disability issues would no longer be addressed in a piecemeal, small-scale and isolated way. In Bangladesh, this approach was both ambitious and revolutionary.

Implementing their strategy, Khan and his group had to deal with the myriad problems that come with pioneering a radically different approach, and having to network with a large number of people and organizations. A strategic thinker with a passion for work, Khan proved equal to the task.

Since its establishment, CDD has trained over ten thousand development workers from 350 organizations in Bangladesh, who can now provide services and create inclusion opportunities for persons with disabilities. With seven service-and-training centers, and in partnership with other organizations, CDD has reached out to fifty-two of the country’s sixty-four districts. It has carried out innovative, disability-inclusive projects in such areas as education, food security, and disaster risk reduction. It operates centers and mobile units that provide information, counseling, and therapeutic services. It has established a National Resource Center in Assistive Technology that manufactures and distributes orthosis and prosthesis devices, and trains craftsmen to produce these devices. And Khan has been equally energetic in policy advocacy. As long-time secretary-general of the National Forum of Organizations Working with the Disabled, Khan has led in strengthening inter-organization collaboration and in working at national and international levels to push initiatives for a disabled-friendly society.

Without great fanfare, Khan and his group have transformed the ways a society can address the issue of disability. Their work has gone beyond national boundaries. CDD has trained organizations from numerous countries, and its CAHD strategy has been replicated in countries like Nepal, India, and the Philippines.

A leader who speaks through his work and does not draw attention to himself, Khan explains what drives him simply: “Persons with disabilities have dreams which they want to fulfill like everyone else — to work, to sustain a future, to exist side by side with others. All they need is the proper environment to work in and lead life as equal to everyone else.”

In electing A.H.M. Noman Khan to receive the 2010 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his pioneering leadership in mainstreaming persons with disabilities in the development process of Bangladesh, and in working vigorously with all sectors to build a society that is truly inclusive and barrier-free.

 RESPONSE

President Benigno S. Aquino III, Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, distinguished guests, fellow Awardees and friends.

I would like to express my deepest respect for the late president of the Philippines, Honorable Ramon Magsaysay, his humane qualities and his belief in equal rights and dignity of all people.

It is for me an immense honor and pride to be elected for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award. It is for me an even greater honor to receive this as a citizen of Bangladesh and as a representative of the disability movement that promotes empowerment of persons with disabilities through mainstreaming and inclusive development. It is awarded at a time of global initiatives to put into action the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I must acknowledge that this Award is not attained by me solely, but rather as a proud member of collective actors. I salute the contributions of each member of my organization, Centre for Disability in Development, our partner organizations, our funding partners, the government of Bangladesh, and most importantly the persons with disabilities who made us realize that it is not their impairment, but rather the attitudinal and environmental barriers that impede their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis as others.

When CDD started its journey, persons with disabilities were largely excluded from society and were deprived of the benefits of development. We advocated for poverty reduction through development programmes, but we were not reaching persons with disabilities. We were alarmed at this exclusion and realized that no development can be achieved excluding this population. For Bangladesh, a country with limited resources, poor infrastructure facilities, a large population living in poverty, it was a huge challenge. Besides, disability issues were still addressed from a charity-based approach.

We wanted to bring positive changes, at the same time realized that significant changes can not be made only through the initiatives of a few NGOs. CDD came into existence, developed in-country capacity, partnered with development organizations and government to mainstream disability issues, then contributed to engage all development actors, the public and private sectors towards creating an inclusive rights-based society for all.

Currently hundreds of development organizations are mainstreaming disability issues as CDD’s partners. In addition, there are many other NGOs, DPOs, networks and associations that address the issue. The government is also very supportive to the cause of disability. However, we still cannot claim that the results as satisfactory. We have fifteen million persons with disabilities, of which around 75 percent live in rural areas and in difficult conditions. Unfortunately, most are still not reached by the required disability and development services.

Today, we have the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability as policy and legislative guidelines, we have Millennium Development Goals as development targets, and we have Community Based Rehabilitation as a strategy to ensure implementation of UNCRPD and attainment of development goals. We at CDD firmly believe that with participation, contribution and support of all, we can collectively bring positive changes in the quality of life of persons with disabilities in Bangladesh, in Asia and beyond. This award will strengthen our commitment and boost the disability movement for empowerment of persons with disabilities. CDD and I are extremely proud and would like to express our sincere commitment to work for persons with disabilities towards creating an inclusive society.

Finally, I reiterate my gratitude to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation by accepting this award. I also declare that the award money will be utilized for the empowerment of persons with disabilities in Bangladesh.