The University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU)  Office of Gender Concerns concluded the celebration of the International Women’s month with a webinar about “Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI)” last March 31, 2023. The invited resource speaker was Criselda Bisda, a human resource practitioner for 16 years. Her expertise is in gender, disability, and social inclusion especially in disaster risk reduction. Her technical assistance on inclusive employment for persons with disabilities and diversity and inclusion in the workplace, in general, has been sought by different institutions. She also drew out some of her experiences as a person with visual disability in her discussion. The webinar was timely since the International Women with Disabilities Day was also celebrated last March 27, 2023.
In Ms. Bisda’s talk, she explained the concepts of marginalization, GEDSI, and intersectionality of disability and the issues confronting the marginalized sector, specifically women and girls with disabilities. 

The examination of the society’s different disability perspectives was elaborated on by Ms. Bisda by presenting the different models including Medical Model of Disability, Charity Model of Disability, Social Model of Disability, and the Human Rights Model where diversity and inclusion are acknowledged only in the last two models. The Social Model of Disability model highlights the importance of removing the barriers faced by persons with disabilities as these are the only factors that hinder the full participation of persons with disabilities. The Human Rights Model took it further by putting emphasis on the role of the government in removing these barriers.

Ms. Bisda is optimistic that the society is heading towards a more inclusive stance. According to her, “Iyong kultura po natin ay masasabi kong nasa transition pa, kumbaga, hindi pa fully inclusive but I would like to be very positive about it na don naman tayo papunta dahil marami din naman pong nag-aadvocate at pinag-uusapan na po natin ngayon iyong tungkol nga sa sinasabing inclusion or inclusivity. And with this, dahil nasa transition phase pa tayo maaasahan talaga natin hindi pa lahat ng tao sa society naiintindihan completely and clearly kung ano ang tinatawag na inclusion, inclusivity at kung bakit dapat tigilan na o huwag na natin gawin ang pag-stigmatize sa mga kasamahan natin na nasa marginalized sector, hindi lang po ito sa disability pati sa LGBT,… ang mga senior citizens.”   

She further shared that “Disability is part of my identity as a person. It just so happened na I have a disability. Most of the time po kasi marami na rin po aking na encounter na tao na they thought na having a disability is a tragedy. Kaya po namumulaklak lagi ang charity perspective kasi marami pa rin ang sabihin nating naniniwala or andon sa perspective na we are victims, we are sufferers, and we are also a form of tragedy. We are living a very tragic life. And I’m sorry to say that it might be the opposite. We are not living a bad life. Disability is not a bad thing. And we are not actually living a tragic life. And we don’t see ourselves as tragedy.”

She also urged the people not to consider them, the persons with disabilities, as inspirational people because inspiration wanes after some time, and it also reinforces the wrong belief that persons with disabilities are not capable to excel. Focusing on the removal of the barriers is more appealing to them as this is more sustainable and it helps get rid of the stigma towards persons with disabilities.

Ms. Bisda’s talk was followed by the talk of Prof. Finaflor Taylan, the Director of UPOU Office of Gender Concerns, where she shared that advocacy meetings and engagements on GEDSI mainstreaming were held to gather representatives and senior leaders across the ASEAN region. While the Philippines has been at the forefront in gender mainstreaming activities, the country is now more open to expanding this to include social inclusion and diversity.

Both Ms. Bisda and Dr. Taylan also recommended some means on how the university, workplace, and the society could provide a more inclusive environment to the marginalized people using organizational development. They also shared that some organizations have already used GEDSI mainstreaming as one of the indicators for organizational performance.


Written by GDRomo, MELucino, and MTRagasa
Edited by FTaylan