“Despite Georgia’s notable progress in recent years, people with disabilities remain one of the most excluded and marginalized groups of society,” says Anna Chernyshova, acting head of UNDP in Georgia.
Another bit of notable progress has just been made, with the opening, on 12 June, of a social inclusion center at a village in Ambrolauri Municipality.
The center will provide more than 50 people with disabilities with educational opportunities, job skills training and physical rehabilitation. The center will also serve as a social space for local seniors and youth, as well as a resource for other community members and groups.
“In our quest for an inclusive society, we must ensure that they enjoy equal rights and equal opportunities in all areas of life,” adds Chernyshova. “In Ambrolauri, we are presenting a unique model of social inclusion that serves the needs of people with disabilities and the local community and opens space for integration and partnership.”
Among the center’s facilities are a specialized gym, a library, a vocational training classroom, and a combined print shop and bookbinder. The building has already become a local landmark, thanks to colorful murals painted on the façade by the renowned social artist Musya Qeburia.
The social inclusion center was established by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with Together For Real Change, a Georgian civil society organization. UNDP support for the center draws on a joint, six-UN agency program to improve social protection for persons with disabilities; other participating agencies include UNICEF, OHCHR, UNFPA, UN Women, and WHO. Resources from the US$2 million initiative are available through the Joint SDG Fund.
The Governments of Bulgaria and Poland also contributed by equipping the center with disability-friendly technology and by building a greenhouse to grow vegetables and create additional employment opportunities for participants and staff.
An opening ceremony for the center brought together by leaders and ambassadors of the organizations and countries involved, as well as residents of local villages, including people with disabilities and local civil society representatives.
“Georgia still has a long way to go to build an inclusive environment and infrastructure and to ensure that people with disabilities receive all the support they need to fully integrate into society,” says Ekaterine Skhiladze, the Ambrolauri Deputy Public Defender. “The social inclusion centre in Ambrolauri is setting an example that should be followed by all municipalities across the country.”