Abilis Programme Countries
The main goal of Finnish Development Cooperation is to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and promote sustainable development. Development Aid is targeted to countries with high levels of inequality and weak systems of public service provision.
The Foundation’s Programme Countries (10) in Africa and Asia include some of the poorest countries in the world, in which the status of persons with disabilities is weak and their rights are not realised. In these contexts, the majority of persons with disabilities live in poverty, outside their own community. Services either do not exist or they are inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Prejudice and ignorant attitudes result in discrimination against persons with disabilities. Needs expressed by persons with disabilities themselves in the Programme Countries, guide Abilis work and activities.
Working in fragile contexts involves a lot of risks. We prepare for risks with country-specific risk mapping and by limiting our work to countries where we have worked before, where we have local representation and wide networks of cooperation. Our local representatives monitor that Abilis grant-funding is used as planned and agreed. Positive changes in the realisation of rights of persons with disabilities have taken place in many of the countries. We want to further strengthen and sustain these changes.
We regularly travel to Programme Countries to meet project participants and to monitor project implementation. We know the contexts of the countries where we work and understand what life is like for persons with disabilities in these contexts. In addition, the Foundation’s many employees with disabilities can offer peer support and genuinely understand persons with disabilities in different parts of the world.
Ethiopia has ratified the UNCRPD in 2010, but its implementation so far has been very weak. The status of persons with disabilities is further weakened by the generally fragile human rights situation, unstable food security situation and negative attitudes towards disability. Ethiopia is a long-term Programme Country of Abilis – we have worked in Ethiopia since 2007. Previously, the focus of Abilis work in the country has been on livelihoods and employment. In the coming years, the Foundation aims to support the disability movement and especially the strengthening of rights of women with disabilities. The Partner Organisation, EWDNA, is the Ethiopian National Association of Women with Disabilities.
Malawi is a new Programme Country for Abilis. Previously, Abilis has funded some projects of groups of deaf persons, blind persons and deafblind persons in the country. Malawi is the poorest country in Southern Africa. One of the key development areas of the country is food security, to which Abilis wants to channel its support. The poverty level of persons with disabilities is particularly high. Thus, creating livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities is important.
Abilis has worked in Mozambique for a long time. During the Programme period 2022–2025, the new Country Programme will focus especially on women and girls with disabilities, sexual and reproductive health and rights, capacity building of organisations of persons with disabilities, and supporting and monitoring inclusive education. Since 2014, the Abilis Partner Organisation in Mozambique has been AJODEMO, the Association of Youth with Disabilities of Mozambique.
Myanmar has ratified the UNCRPD. Abilis has worked in the country since 2014 and has witnessed the significant strengthening of the local disability movement. During the last few years, support has been granted especially to activities of new organisations of persons with disabilities and livelihoods of persons with disabilities. The military coup and the covid-19 pandemic have made working in the country difficult, but despite the challenges, Abilis has been able to support persons with disabilities and their organisations.
The active work of Abilis in Nepal has increased awareness of persons with disabilities of their own rights and given them tools to claim these rights. Our contact person in Nepal is Birendra Raj Pokharel, who is a blind person himself. Birendra has actively worked to raise awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities in both national and international forums. Nepal is a long-term Abilis Programme Country that in recent years has also received active support during crises, such as earthquakes and the covid-19 pandemic. In crisis situations, the focus has been on sharing information in accessible ways to persons with different types of disabilities.
Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in Central Asia and has not ratified the UNCRPD. The population is very young: almost 60 % of the population is under 24 years old. The status of the rights of persons with disabilities in the country is weak, because the majority of persons with disabilities do not have access to education or paid employment. Abilis supports the advocacy work of organisations of persons with disabilities in the country. The long-term Partner Organisations of Abilis is ISHTIROK, a strong organisation of women with disabilities that works in Tajikistan. The status of women with disabilities has strengthened and both authorities and persons with disabilities themselves have been reached with information on disability.
Tanzania is a long-term Programme Country of Abilis – the Foundation has worked in Tanzania since 1998. In recent years, the livelihoods of families of children with disabilities, income generation, and inclusive education have been supported. For years, support has been targeted especially to organisations of persons with albinism, because the human rights of persons with albinism have been trampled on in incredibly cruel ways that find their roots in misguided beliefs and lack of information. Our contact person in Tanzania is Rafiki Msafiri, who is a deaf person herself.
Abilis has been actively supporting persons with disabilities in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion in February 2022. Since 2024, in order to have a more lasting influence, Ukraine was approved as a new Programme Country of Abilis Foundation. In the wartime period it is crucial to protect the rights of persons with disabilities as they are often overlooked. The war has worsened the situation with governmental support being cut and the challenges being even more evident.
The main focus of Abilis work in Ukraine will be disability inclusion, capacity building of grassroot organisations of persons with disabilities as advocators for the rights of persons with disabilities and psychological support. Abilis Partner organization in Ukraine is Vinnytsia City Organization for Social Development of specific categories of vulnerable youth “PAROSTOK”.
Abilis cooperation in Uganda started in 1999. Persons with disabilities in Uganda live without social security and it is difficult for them to access basic education or employment. Abilis-funded projects have offered persons with disabilities life skills and other important know-how that have created opportunities for them to move forward in life. In Uganda, Abilis works in diverse collaboration with other local and international actors, such as Nordic and American sister organisations. In the coming years, supporting refugees with disabilities will be a concrete focus area of Abilis work in the country.
Vietnam has plenty of laws and regulations to support rights of persons with disabilities. However, there have been problems in their implementation, and failure to comply with the laws is not sanctioned. For example, children with disabilities’ right to education is not yet a reality in Vietnam. Approximately half of the country’s 1,3 million children with disabilities do not have any access to education. Abilis has funded numerous advocacy projects in which information is shared to persons with disabilities and authorities in the country. In addition, Abilis has significantly strengthened the status of women and girls with disabilities in Vietnam.