Enduring Impacts of the Professional Fellows Program

Written by Ion Schidu, Spring 2018 Fellow from Moldova

Following my participation as a Spring 2018 PFP Fellow with the the City of Boston Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities, I was able to implement reciprocal project in Chisinau, Moldova.  In partnership with an NGO in Chisinau for people with disabilities, Centre for the Rights of People with Disabilities (CDPD), led by an IVLP alum (Vitalie Mester), our PFP reciprocal project focused on facilitating the creation of a permanent mechanism of engagement of the local city hall with the people with disabilities, similar to that of the Boston Disability Commission. During the project,  Jessica Doonan, the Chief of Staff of the Boston Disability Commission travelled to Moldova and  participated in a series of public events with the representatives of Chisinau city hall and organizations of people with disabilities in order to exchange best practices and to eventually support the configuration of  a similar mechanism within the Chisinau city hall.

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Ms. Jessica Donnan meeting with the Vice Mayor and the heads of departments and City agencies

As a consequence of these events and other advocacy work done by local NGOs, at the beginning of 2019, the mayor of Chisinau appointed an adviser on accessibility and established a Consultative Council for people with disabilities. Additionally, the mayor agreed to resume implementation of the two-year action plan on accessibility of Chisinau, agreed upon by organizations of people with disabilities and the former mayor. In order to research ways in which we could improve the current configuration and function of engagement with the Chisinau city hall, I began a policy fellowship at Open Society Foundation Moldova.

In December 2019, after continued advocacy and engagement, our group shared the preliminary findings of the policy paper with the representatives of the organizations of people with disabilities, Open Society Foundations and the newly appointed vice mayor agreed to take further steps for strengthen the commitments of the city hall in regards to the accessibility needs of people with disabilities from Chisinau, including: adopting the necessary normative framework in order to ensure the efficient functioning of the Accessibility adviser; consolidating the Consultative council; and organizing regular meetings with the extended community of people with disabilities from Chisinau.

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Ms. Jessica Doonan, PFP Alumni and the staff of CDPD wearing the t-shirts and caps of the campaign “Chisinau – accessible for everyone”

Recently, a network of organizations of people with disabilities met the newly appointed decision-makers from the Chisinau city hall in order to discuss the needs of the community and the ways in which the local administration plans to mainstream accessibility needs in its work. Along with confirming its intent to strengthen the engagement mechanism that the civil society organizations (and the Professional Fellows Program) have contributed to, the city hall will initiate drafting an action plan for accessibility of Chisinau, with the participation of organizations of people with disabilities. 

Similar processes of mobilization for the empowerment of people with disabilities are currently taking place in other regions of the country. Baltsi – the second largest city in the country – is one of the examples where a PFP fellow with the support of the U.S. Embassy, is leading in consolidating the community of people with disabilities for participation, inspired by the experience from Chisinau. We had a similar vision for projects in other two cities in the country where there are PFP/USG alumni.

Even though there is still much work ahead, it’s quite exciting to see the outcomes so far!

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