Debate over national council for Egypt's special needs.
This decision has provoked debate among legal activists, handicapped people and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) working in this field.
Some people believe that this proposed governmental council will only have a supervisory role, while others hope it will be like a similar council in Jordan, which enjoys royal patronage and wide authority.
Ayman el-Tantawi, executive manager of the Kayan Society for Children with Special Needs, says that handicapped people are treated equally with 'normal' people in other countries.
"Former governments neglected handicapped people and now is the time for the concerned NGOs to help them.
"Egypt has signed an international United Nations accord for supporting and protecting the handicapped. Egypt should make the necessary legislative amendments to reflect this.
"In fact, we have been campaigning for new legislation since 2008," he stresses, adding that people with special needs are in favour of this council and want to help manage it.
"The council must have the authority to help the handicapped people be given the right to better healthcare, education and transport facilities."
In fact, el-Tantawi says that a draft law has already been prepared for this category of people, but it was held up because of the revolution.
This draft law is now being submitted to the People's Assembly (Lower House of Parliament) and human rights organisations for review.
According to el-Tantawi, there is a federation in Upper Egypt of 52 associations founded by handicapped people, working to get the handicapped their rights.
Sami Ahmed, himself handicapped, is the head of an institution for 25 handicapped people, which is in the process of being founded.
He is not in favour of a national council and would prefer a higher council for the handicapped, affiliated to the President, not the Cabinet.
"National councils are always useless, but such a higher council would enjoy wide authority and have the power to force the concerned ministries to implement decisions relating to people with special needs.
"The Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs and also the concerned NGOs would be responsible for the budget for this higher council, which will benefit these NGOs," Ahmed adds.
MP Moustafa Kamal, a legal expert active in the field of the handicapped and responsible for human rights in the People's Assembly, says that, in 2011, according to the World Health Organisation, 15 per cent of Egyptians were handicapped.
"We urgently need a new law, not just decisions, for this category of society," he told Akher Saa, a local magazine.
"A higher council for special needs people, like the one they have in Jordan, would be a good idea."
Reham el-Masri, board chairwoman of a society that works with the handicapped, says that the new national council shouldn't just be content to make rosy statements; it must take practical steps to help the handicapped.
Ali Abdel-Aal, a handicapped man, welcomes the idea of a national council which would guarantee the rights of people with special needs, especially those living in Upper Egypt and remote governorates.
Copyright Eltahir House 2012
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