On behalf of its 15th anniversary, the Center „Living Upright“ organized a fundraising event on Tuesday, November 28, at 12 o’clock, in the Big hall of City of Novi Sad Cultural Centre. The French movie “Untouchables”, which in the most direct way shows the purpose of personal assistance to disabled persons was screened on this occasion and there was an exhibition of messages and opinions of the leaders of the international independent living movement. (//www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxXxeGqH0Xc&feature=youtu.be in Serbian and //www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQIqzJGM8cw&feature=youtu.be in English).

The event was organized with the support of Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organizations Project (TACSO) realized by European Commission. Gaumont Television Production Company and Blitz Group enabled the screening of the film. Forty seven people took part in this event, among which there were: activists / members of the Independent Living Movement, personal assistants and people organizing personal assistance service in Novi Sad, newly elected representative of Serbia in the Board of the European Network for Independent Living, representatives of EU delegation in Serbia, representatives of French Institute in Novi Sad, executive director of Reconstruction Women’s Fund, representative of “Sv. Stefan Dečanski” choir, that on this occasion donated 80.000,00 RSD for personal assistance service raised at the concert celebrating 30th anniversary of the choir.

Journalists of a few newspapers in Novi Sad also attended the event. The daily newspaper “Dnevnik” published the story about fundraising event:  //www.dnevnik.rs/novi-sad/decenija-i-po-postojana-centra-ziveti-uspravno-28-11-2017

At the very beginning, the short film produced by the Centre on the occasion of 10 years since the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted (//youtu.be/cZssNavLNLg) was screened, after which Aurélie Pollet, director of the French Institute in Novi Sad, announced the film “Untouchables” saying that in 2012 more people saw this film than the last sequel of Harry Potter and that although she likes Harry Potter a lot, she is glad because this film raises the awareness of the importance of supporting disabled people. Certain amount of the money the film made was allocated to this type of support in France.

Due to the technical problems with the subtitles, caused by me putting the comma in time line during the subtitles proof reading and the absence of the colleague who inserted it at that very moment, it wasn’t possible to screen the film immediately, so some visitors, including the coordinator of the Office for People with Disabilities of the City of Novi Sad, representatives of the Association of Dystrophy of the South Bačka District and the representative of the University of Novi Sad at Erasmus + Tran2work project, left the event. It went on by presenting the history of the Independent Living Movement, the importance of the service, the way it is provided, what is required for the licensing of the service, and what are the basic costs that imply the initial funds for organizing the service for one user according to the minimum republic standards defined by the Regulation for the licensing of social protection services. Following this, Nicolas Bizel, Head of Operation Sections, Justice, Home Affairs and Social Inclusion of EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, addressed the participants pointing out that the EU allocates considerable funds for  inclusion of disabled persons and works on linking different factors in this field, but that real inclusion is possible only if all segments of the society recognize this field as something that we all have to work on together because it is about each of us, from families which we live in to all institutions, systems and services available to citizens. He also stated that this segment is a challenge for all of us, including the EU itself, because, for example, regardless of the fact that it is a newly built building, there is no elevator of appropriate dimensions in the EU Info Center in Belgrade. He also pointed out the importance of the role of civil society, in particular the role of organizations of disabled people as initiators of the change when it comes to social inclusion of disabled people.

Marija Vrebalov, a member of the City Assembly of Novi Sad, deputy president of the City Assembly (2008-12), pointed out the importance of taking actions together and having the same requirements when it comes to issues related to the position of disabled people. She added that the more people are active in politics the more we can influence the decisions that are made. She said that she had not been using the assistance for four years and to live without it is insecure and quite challenging, while with assistance everything is possible.

The executive director of the Reconstruction Women’s Fund in her speech focused on the fact that the circumstances which we live in create quite problematic situations for different groups of citizens, that the RWF as a domestic foundation and as someone who will stay here and has no limited mandate in terms of the theme and period in which it operates in the territory of Serbia, supports all those segments that concern the lives of women and makes it possible to ease everything that the system has not recognized or that due to the lack of funds has not yet come into focus. She also expressed her regret about the fact that there are funds for the purchase of expensive cars and properties, financing concerts of folk singers, but not for the basic social or health care services. She added that the RWF has recognized that the work of the Center is not limited to personal assistance only, but to the comprehensive service that includes accessibility, peer support, support in education and employment. She also mentioned that there are examples when the Center, due to system discrimination, actually provided full support to one person to enable her independent living, which in fact was the reason for the RWF to support this process. She also announced further support from the fund.

Marko Asurdžić, on behalf of “Stv. Stefan Decanski “and” Orfelin” choirs under the leadership of Tamara Adamov Patijević, said that years ago, the representatives of these two choirs met our colleague Ljiljana Čakmak, who has been using the assistance since she was 27 and who is one of the two persons because of whom the personal assistance service in Novi Sad started in 2008, and that he himself assists Ljiljana when going to the concerts (he also assisted her at this event). For several years these two choirs have given up their fees and encouraged the audience to invest money in this service because it allows freedom of movement and functioning. He announced that they will continue with supporting the service and he compared it to our daily bread and expressed his opinion that it is not sustainable that medical treatments are financed by SMS services, and services that allow functioning and movement by funds raised at concerts and other events of this type, saying that they will still continue to support the service as much as they can.

After Marko Asurdžić’s speech, the film was screened. After the film Mimica Živadinović, Vice-President of the Center for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities of Serbia, who celebrates 30 years of activism in the disability movement and who was the first personal assistant in Serbia, addressed the audience. She stated that she is glad that the two Centers have been cooperating in this field for 10 years now, but that Novi Sad, unlike many smaller towns and municipalities, has still not solved the issue of permanent financing of the service which is really necessary. For example, the municipality of Irig or the town of Bor, regardless of the lower budgets and economic situations, has direct and permanent financing of the service. She read the message of Gordana Rajkov, founder of the Movement for Independent Living in Serbia, who was not able to be with us yesterday. Her message was:

Dear Mima, dear associates of the Centre Living Upright,

I’m sorry for not being with you today physically to celebrate together on of manifestations on behalf of the 15 anniversary of the existence and work of your organisation The fact that you exist so long and implement the activities aiming the better position of persons with disabilities tells about persistent and committed work and a path you passed, and which hasn’t been the straight, easy and sprinkled with roses. It has been winding with lot of thorns and obstacles which you still managed to overcome less or more successfully.

Independent living of persons with disabilities and making the conditions for its implementation in Serbia has been mission of the Center for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities of Serbia for more than 20 years. This movement was one of the liberating aspects in lives of persons with disabilities. It transformed them from the passive users of services which weren’t still adequate to active citizens and employers of their personal assistants and associates in the same time.

Why persons with disabilities are still excluded from independent living?

The answer to this question is quite simple and is related to the social, economic and political processes. In other words, the lack of implementation of good socio-political practise. This the irony especially because we live in a period of EU directives, UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and national governments which are going towards social inclusion. The intention was persons with disabilities to all aspects of life, social, economic and political one, but what’s happaning in reality is sometimes opossite to that. Some persons with disabilities still perceive themselves as victims of the system which deprives them lieving them to the level of poverty, dependent on benefitions due to the lack of possebilities for employment and work trainings and isolated in their own society.

Many countries have still an issue of understanding what the real consultancy with persons with disabilities is. They deny that on their own responsibility, but, unfortunately, at the end persons with disabilities are the victim of non-provision of services they need.

As you already know, in order to fulfil our rights we need o fight for them constantly, persistently and wisely. I wish you to chose battles you’ll lead and which will have the real perspective to be won, and those for which there is a great possibility you’ll lose in that moment, leave them for later, not giving up from them and patiently building a strategy by which you will also won them in the right moment for that.

Wishing you to be persistant in your efforts, to have a lot more success in your at least in following 15 years and wishing  you this event to pass successfully,  I’m sending you a lot of warm, friendly regards.

At the end of the event, I invited my colleagues who used or are using the personal assistance service, those who contributed to creating and organizing it in Novi Sad, personal assistants who have carried the burden of the service very well over all these years, bearing in mind the restrictive conditions of financing and waiting for funds, to join me on the stage.

At the very end of the event Radoš Keravica, European Network of Independent Living and its Youth Network Board member, said that regardless of the fact that Strategy for De-institutionalization exists, Serbia has not made a step forward, since it has been left to the institutions to transform themselves and define the dynamics of this process. In addition, it has not been done enough to create community services and that regardless of the fact that users started to live independently, the funds allocated for social protection do not follow the users, but are still directed to institutions where these same users have stayed until recently through the Centers for social work. He also pointed out that there are EU mechanisms that, in accordance with the adopted international documents, should contribute to the de-institutionalization process. However, the EU in Serbia still invests in projects that slow down the process, such as for example recently launched Open Arms Project. Within the project a detailed national plan for deinstitutionalization was developed in coordination with the working groups for DI of the Ministry of Health and Ministry for Labour, which was supposed to be the basis for the national strategy on DI. Although the Plan was submitted to both Ministries, it has never been officially adopted by the Government.

The fundraising event ended at 4 p.m. It was consecutively translated by Tanja Gavrilović, representative of the French Institute in Novi Sad, and voluntarily photographed by Miroslav Majstorovic, a. musician  The photos can be find at:

//www.facebook.com/pg/zivetiuspravno/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1515400081847260

Discussion continued at the cocktail that was supported by “Čarolija”, “Vremeplov” an “Il primo catering services, “Minaqua”, “Coca-cola” and “Uni line TTR Rent a Car”. Two people provided wine.

Since no representative of the City of Novi Sad attended the event, and no of the donors from business sector (several of them provided food and refreshments for the cocktail, but they didn’t come, we sent a letter to all invited entities and persons with the leaflet on IL facts sheets and definition, the information on CLU and a questionnaire which was developed after the TA session on crowd funding advised by colleague Maja Stojanović, executive director of Civic Initiatives, It was delivered on 1 December. In letter to the Mayor, president of the City Assembly and to the City Administration for Social and Child Protection, suggesting a mutual meeting with PA service users and representatives of CIL Serbia and City of Belgrade which provides this service according the Law on Social Protection, in order to find solution the Decision on Social Protection City of Novi Sad to be changed by mainstreaming PA service into it, which is the only way for its continuity and sustainability.

 

 

President of the Centre

mr Milica Mima Ružičić-Novković

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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