Sunday, May 31, 2009

Founder of Kuwaiti disability group receives leadership award from Rehabilitation Interational

From Arab Times:

NEW YORK -- Founder and Secretary-General of Kuwait Society for the Handicapped, Munira Al-Mutawa, received May 28 from Rehabilitation International (RI) the first-ever Sir Harry Fang Empowerment Award for Leadership in Promoting Disability Rights and Inclusion.

She immediately dedicated the award to His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for his support to persons with disabilities in Kuwait. The event, under the theme “Empowerment, Inclusion, Access: Unlocking the Potential of Children and Youth with Disabilities,” was attended by leaders from the disability community, the corporate sector, the civil society, diplomats, including the Kuwaiti delegation to the UN, as well as UNICEF Chief Ann M. Veneman and President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg.

Al-Mutawa, who is also founder of the Gulf Disability Society, received the award, along with Charlotte Mc-Cain-Nhlapo of South Africa, Senior Disability Advisor for the World Bank and former member of the South African Human Rights Commission. The award was in recognition of their important contributions to empower persons with disabilities around the world and make a more inclusive society.

Receiving her award plaque, Al-Mutawa said in her acceptance speech, “I would like to say that I dedicate this award to His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for his longstanding support of persons with disabilities in Kuwait.” She extended her gratitude and appreciation to RI for helping her achieve important tasks in the disability field, not only in Kuwait, but also in the Gulf region, the Arab world and the world in general. She serves as the RI National Secretary for Kuwait and has been a member since 1979.

“It was through my cooperation with RI that I learned a lot and shared experiences with true professionals. The results of that fruitful cooperation were the important achievements in my country, such as the Law on Care for the Disabled, on which I used to work for several years and that was finally adopted by the National Assembly in 1996,” she said.

“My love for giving never ended. I became somehow directed to supporting persons with disabilities but it has not stopped there. It extended to the needy on the global level for I have never distinguished people by their religion or nationality,” she told the guests.

RI President Anne Hawker told the fund-raising event that “an important way that RI can contribute to raising awareness and advocating for the UN treaty is to highlight the significant efforts of individuals like Munira and Charlotte, whose commitment to disability rights has far-reaching impacts across the globe.”

The recipients were chosen by RI for their leadership in the disability field, innovation and partnership. Kuwait’s Permanent Rep-resentative to the UN, Ambassador Abdullah Al-Murad, told KUNA following the event that he was gratified that Al-Mutawa received the award and that is an honor for Kuwait which is always in the forefront of the countries in the region that pays a great deal of attention and importance to the disabled people, praising the Kuwait Society for the Handicapped for supporting them. Al-Mutawa later told KUNA she is “proud of receiving this award because I highlighted my country, Kuwait, in the RI.” She noted that she is now fighting to have the Kuwaiti Higher Council for the Disabled Affairs as an independent body from the Ministry of Social Affairs and to have medical testing before marriage approved by the parliament, because that would give an early signal if there are cases of handicapped children, voicing her expectation that the four women recently elected to the Parliament will help push the issue forward.

Al-Mutawa was accompanied by Hashem Taqi, Director General of the Kuwait Society for the Handicapped which hosts some 475 handicapped. The event, co-sponsored by Ambassador Nassir A. Al-Nasser of Qatar and Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein, was hosted in the latter’s residence and marked the first anniversary of entry into force of the United Nations Disability Convention. RI, founded in 1922, has 1,000 members representing 100 countries. It has been a leader in the disability field in the US and around the globe, working to empower the more than 650 million persons with disabilities around the globe and provide sustainable solutions for a more inclusive and accessible society. The award was named after Sir Harry Fang, from Hong Kong, in recognition of his important contribution to the RI humanitarian projects.