2019 Malaysia: Formative Evaluation of #ThisAbility Initiative
Sustainable Development Goals: 3, 4
- SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
- SDG 4 - Quality Education
The World Health Organization (WHO) World Report on Disability estimates that globally over 1 billion people are living with disabilities, representing just over 15 per cent of the world’s population. Around one household in every four includes a person with disabilities, which means that over 2 billion people live with the impact of disability on a daily basis. Moreover, the prevalence of disability is growing due to ageing populations and global increases in chronic health conditions and non-communicable diseases.
The lives of children and young people with disabilities in Malaysia, like those with disabilities in many other countries, tend to be disadvantaged compared with their peers without disabilities. While the Government of Malaysia has shown commitment to improving the lives of persons with disabilities, including by ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2010 and through its Disability Act (2008), gaps remain in the implementation of CRPD compliant policies and plans. There is a lack of data on the prevalence of disability among children and young people in Malaysia; their voices and lived experiences remain generally unheard, and the underlying drivers for stigma and discrimination still exist.
In 2013, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a groundbreaking State of the World’s Children report, which focused specifically on children with disabilities. It highlighted the impact that disability can have on children’s life chances, even when their lives may already be difficult. It made a powerful case for demonstrating that children and young people with disabilities are at greater risk of being poor than their peers without disabilities, and they experience their poverty more acutely because of the additional barriers they face living with their impairments.
UNICEF Malaysia began planning its #ThisAbility Flagship Initiative in 2016. The goal was to make positive changes for children with disabilities in Malaysia so that they are free from discrimination and able to access services to support their growth, development and protection. The plan was to run the Flagship Initiative from 2017 to 2020, however, in early 2019, UNICEF Malaysia decided to no longer refer to its work on disability as a ‘flagship’, and committed to mainstreaming disabilityinclusive programming.
This evaluation focused on activities carried out under the #ThisAbility Flagship Initiative between 2017 and 2019. UNICEF Malaysia did not define what a ‘flagship’ is but, by establishing a ‘flagship initiative’, it signalled intent to scale up its focus on disability, with opportunities to establish new partnerships, carry out more focused activities, and learn from the experience of implementing disability initiatives.
UNICEF Malaysia did not define a fixed budget, target number of beneficiaries or geographical coverage for the Initiative. At the time of the evaluation, UNICEF Malaysia did not appear to have plans to scale up or replicate the Initiative or its associated activities, but the activities it delivered will provide valuable learning for future disability-inclusion activities delivered by the Country Programme.