Living with a physical disability for 32 years, did not stifle the spirit and vision of Suria Apulu, to strive and contribute to creating a world of possibilities and opportunities for persons with disabilities. Her vision, has made her one of the strongest advocate of the disability movement in Samoa.
Understanding the challenges that persons with disabilities face, she had always hoped that one day, Samoa will have a sustainable social protection system that will ‘reach all ages and genders of persons with disability’.
In all her efforts to advocate for inclusiveness and equal rights of persons with disability her election as a member of the newly established Disability Reference Group (DRG), is another milestone.
The DRG, is a group made up of persons with diverse disabilities, gender, age and geographic location with the main task of advocate for inclusivity within UN Joint Program “Strengthening resilience of Pacific Island States through Universal Social Protection”.
The DRG is chaired by Mata’afa Fa’atino Utumapu, General Manager of Nuanua O Le Alofa (NOLA), the National Advocacy Organisation for Persons with Disabilities in Samoa. It is the Advisory Body for the implementation of the Pilot Project for Social Security for persons with a disability, which is a component and a key outcome activity under the UN Joint Social Protection programme, that is delivered by UNESCO.
Mata’afa said that “the formulation of the disability reference group shows a strong commitment to remain true to the concept of nothing about persons with disabilities without their full and active participation and inclusion.”
The Pilot Project aims to design a Social Security Benefit for persons with disabilities in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that will be financially sustainable in the long-term by the Government.
The Social Security Benefit ensures, that people with disability will be provided financial support to access healthcare, transportation or even a cash benefit similar to the Senior Citizens Pension.
On completion of the Pilot Project, the Government will be presented with a business case for a Social Security Benefit for their consideration.
Strengthening Resilience of Pacific Island States Through Universal Social Protection
In partnership with the Governments of Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tokelau, the United Nations Country Team in Samoa initiated the Joint Program on Social Protection in early 2020. Five UN agencies including UNESCO, UNDP, ILO, ESCAP and UNICEF will work with stakeholders across the 4 PICTS from government, civil society and the private sector to implement the activities of the Joint Programme on Social Protection.
The Joint SDG fund, supported by the UN Member States, International Organisations, the private sector and individual philanthropists, has allocated USD $3 million to the Joint Programme on Social Protection across the 4 PICTS.
The programme aims to assist the Governments of the four PICTs to develop evidence based, nationally owned Social Protection systems that are financially sustainable to accelerate progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through integrated programming in national and sub-national development. This is to ensure an inclusive approach to sustainable development in line with the UN 2030 Agenda and commitment to Leave No One Behind.
The stakeholders involved in the Pilot Project for Social Security for persons includes the DRG and representatives from NOLA, SENESE, Aoga Fiamalamalama, Samoa Blind Persons Association, Deaf Association of Samoa and Loto Taumafai Society, and key government ministries, including Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour, Ministry of Finance and the Samoa National Provident Fund.