Photographs: Pexels / Tilioq
Text: Michaela Medveďová / Sara R. Newell
In 2017, the Government of Greenland established Tilioq - a politically independent national disability advocacy organisation. Tilioq's primary purpose is to advance the rights of people with disabilities in Greenland and work towards fully implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Tilioq aims to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their disabilities, can participate in society and that Greenland takes measures to ensure an equal and inclusive society. Inspired by the #enmillionstemmer movement in Denmark, Tillioq has recently started a counterpart campaign in Greenland- #titusindstemmer.
In their press release, Tilioq stated that the #titusindstemmer campaign "must end decades of marginalisation and discrimination against people with disabilities. The aim of the campaign is to improve conditions for people with disabilities. This must be done by putting pressure on politicians, who the initiators believe have not sufficiently prioritised people with disabilities."
The organisation emphasises that disability advocacy and policy impact more people than one would think. In fact, the name of the campaign, #titusindestemmer or "ten thousand voices", refers to the approximately 15% of Greenland's citizens with some form of disability. However, This percentage is the tip of the iceberg since it doesn't consider family members or relatives who have someone in their lives who has experienced challenges or inequality due to a disability.
The press release quoted Anja Hynne Nielsen, the spokesperson for people with disabilities in Greenland: "I also hope, of course, that our politicians will think about how many of the people they represent actually live with a disability, and therefore that working for the rights of people with disabilities is, in fact, a popular agenda, that you as a politician no longer can ignore."
She continued: "Greenland lags behind in living up to our international obligations in disability. So it is clear that much more public focus and political will is needed in this area. I very much hope that the campaign can help show popular support for our politicians so that they adopt an ambitious action plan in the field of disability that aligns with our international obligations and a dignified view of humanity."
The campaign gives an open platform in the form of an open Facebook group to anyone affected by a disability who would like to take the opportunity to share their experiences. Tilioq hopes that the campaign will help to break down the taboo and stigmatisation that surrounds disability and that this, in turn, will help people with disabilities to realise that they are not alone in their struggles. Furthermore, it is hoped that the campaign can help people with a disability by focusing on how their struggles result from the lack of equality for people with disabilities.
Anja sees great value in the shared experiences which arise from the campaign, "No policy should be decided without hearing the people who are affected – that is why the slogan for our seminar this year is "Nothing about us without us" ".
The Ilulissat conference and its impact
The #titusindstemmer campaign came as a culmination of a seminar and conference on disability policies that took place in Ilulissat on May 13-15 and welcomed about 100 politicians, heads of departments, social workers, and of course the Tilioq organisation, and with the primary purpose of strengthening the commitment to upholding the UN disability convention in Greenland.
The conference consisted of workshops and panel discussions to share experiences and proposals for improving living conditions for people with disabilities. Before the conference, Anja said: "We gather authorities, experts, and disability organisations from all over the country to look each other in the eye and find out how we can ensure that Greenland is a place where there is room for everyone regardless of disability."
Tilioq shared that one of the most recurring topics of the conference was problems with case processing and the lack of legal certainty for people with a disability. One of the major takeaways was a broad agreement that there's a need to build a more accessible and much more straightforward process where people know their rights and options for assistance and where authorities support people who need it.
One of the primary take-home messages from the conference was that the welfare system needs to be redesigned to recognise people with disabilities as individuals instead of trying to force them into boxes. Anja stated: "Like everyone else, people with disabilities are all different - and if we are to ensure the right to self-determination and live up to our international obligations, such as the UN disability convention, then we need to be able to embrace that diversity. We must provide the opportunity for individual solutions and put the individual in focus. This is done elsewhere in the world. We can, of course, also do this in Greenland."