Cross-sector advocacy to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Mana Auxiliadora from RHTO presents at a community event celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Mana Auxiliadora from RHTO presents at a community event celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Liquiçá municipality on the CRPD (WaterAid Timor-Leste/Eurico da Costa)


WaterAid Timor-Leste has a strong philosophy of partnership, working with several local civil society organisation (CSO) implementation partners, including women’s groups, DPOs, and human rights organisations.


As part of their Water for Women project, supported by the Australian Government, WaterAid Timor-Leste has supported the growth of PN-BESITL, a national network of WASH sector CSOs focused on national-level advocacy for the prioritisation of WASH issues and increased WASH budget allocation and investment. This network comprises 20 local CSO members, including several of WaterAid’s strategic advocacy and rights partners. 


WaterAid Timor-Leste has worked with DPO partner Ra’es Hadomi Timor Oan (RHTO) for more than 10 years to ensure its WASH programming and advocacy leaves no one behind and mainstreams disability-inclusive practices, especially in accessible WASH infrastructure. Part of this work has included bringing RHTO into PN-BESITL as a full member, despite not being a WASH-specific organisation. This has strengthened WASH CSOs’ understanding of disability inclusion and barriers to WASH access, and has meant the voices of people with a disability are being heard and valued across WASH activities and advocacy efforts. 


This knowledge-sharing and support works both ways. Earlier this year, we saw CSO actors across different sectors come together to leverage their influence as a collective. WaterAid Timor-Leste supported RHTO and other PN-BESITL members to secure meetings with the President of Timor-Leste, H.E. Jose Ramos-Horta, to advocate that the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) be brought to the top of the National Parliament’s agenda after over a decade of advocacy efforts. 


RHTO invited WATL and other PN-BESITL members HAK (human rights organisation) and GFFTL (women’s group) to participate in these meetings, and support their position. This is emblematic of the way WATL works in partnership with rights groups, and of the way other CSOs and rights groups view their relationship with WATL. WATL not only draws on the expertise of partners to strengthen their own WASH advocacy, but is a powerful supporter of partners’ own advocacy agendas. 


As a result of this collaboration, and many years of advocacy by a range of actors, the Convention has now been ratified by the National Parliament, recognising the legal and equal rights of persons with disabilities. 


This commits the Government of Timor-Leste to ensuring all persons with disabilities are able to effectively exercise these human rights and are consulted across all policy matters that will affect their lives. While this convention is not specific to WASH, by enshrining all human rights for persons with disabilities, including rights to WASH, the Convention lays an important foundation for future inclusive WASH advocacy and influencing.


In the words of Maun Joaozito dos Santos, Executive Director of RHTO, 'the convention will obligate the government to implement and improve WASH accessibility … and inclusive universal design enabling people with disability to more independently participate in all sectors.'




Learn how Water for Women are engaging meaningfully with people with disabilities in their full range of diversity and how more marginalised people with disabilities can be successfully reached, even when disability inclusion is relatively new to an organisation or team by downloading our latest learning brief below.

A blue graphic with the words 'Just launched' and a thumbnail of the cover of a HWS learning Brief

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities we celebrate the diverse lives and capabilities of people with disabilities – their knowledge, aspirations, and the solutions they bring to the table.


Climate change has the most impact on the poorest people and people with disabilities make up 20% of those most vulnerable to climate impacts. Inclusive development is more important than ever for creating a fair and equal society and building climate-resilience. Without it, there cannot be resilience. Inclusive WASH is a critical building block for the creation of an accessible and equitable world – an essential pathway towards building the health and resilience of all people to respond to the climate-related challenges in fair, just and equitable ways.


Being able to account for diversity in populations is critical to ensuring WASH services reach all people. Despite people with disabilities making up an estimated 1 billion people globally, many, particularly those living in remote and marginalised communities do not have equitable access to WASH services because their needs and interests haven’t been considered.


Our partners are working across Asia Pacific to ensure WASH services and systems are disability-inclusive and accessible to all.


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