The municipality of Borås and the municipality of Vracar in Serbia are working together in a partnership that aims to increase the influence and participation of people with disabilities.
– Although Borås has come a long way with these issues, we have a lot to learn from Vracar, says Herawati Iskandar Novak, disability consultant and partnership project manager from Borås municipality.
How did the partnership begin?
– It was during a conference on urban development in Belgrade that I met representatives from Borås municipality and was very inspired by their work for people with disabilities, says Irena Lakobrija Delic, Vracar’s partnership project manager.
Irena works as head of the project unit. As a coordinator of the Office for people with disabilities, Irena was particularly interested in the position held by Herawati: disability consultant.
– A designated person working on these particular issues is important for sustainability and institutionalisation, Irena says. I therefore approached the municipality of Borås directly to ask if they were interested in starting a municipal partnership with us. And they said yes!
After an inception phase initiated in 2020, where both partners got to know each other and formulated their local democratic challenges, the two partners applied for a three-year project that was granted in early 2022.
Improved participation and influence
Borås has multiple goals for the partnership with Vracar. They wish to improve opportunities for participation and influence in decision-making processes for people with disabilities, as well as the accessibility of information and services. In particular, they wish to reach out to the younger generation.
– We currently have a disability council, but we mainly reach older people there. We need to develop and explore new forums to better reach the younger generation, says Herawati Iskandar Novak.
Vracar is also working to improve participation and empowerment but is struggling to structure the work and functions of the organisation. They do not currently have a disability council, but within the project, they can consult the target group on whether that is the right way forward.
– We are working with the same issues and towards the same goals as Borås. However, our organisation is not as well organised and structured as in Borås. The exchange of experience in this project is therefore very important for us as we develop our own activities, says Irena.
Both Herawati and Irena stress that the cultural context can sometimes be challenging. They note that is important to consider that things that work in Borås may not be applicable in Vracar and vice versa. At the same time, it is a strength to see each other’s differences, which also can give us new perspectives and develop something that is not ”business as usual”, says Herawati.
We wish both partners the best of luck and look forward to following their partnership journey for a more democratic world.