Every skills development programme can include persons with disabilities: 7th plenary session on developing a National Strategy for Disability Inclusion in Skills Development in Bangladesh

The UN unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 13th December 2006, which entered into force on 3rd May 2008. Bangladesh was one of the pioneering countries to ratify this Convention and is pledge bound to implement the human rights treaty in its entirety ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities in the country. Five years on we look at the progress which the Government of Bangladesh, supported by the ILO, is making to include persons with disabilities in the national skills development system.


Disability and poverty are closely interrelated, with disability accentuating poverty and poverty increasing the likelihood of disability. One of the measures to break this cycle is integrating persons with disabilities into mainstream education and training, thereby opening up pathways to decent employment.

The Bangladesh National Skills Development Policy (NSDP), which was approved by Cabinet in 2012, states that skills training in Bangladesh is essential for continued economic growth and improving the standard of living for workers, particularly women, ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged groups including persons with disabilities. Mainstreaming these groups into training and employment opportunities strengthens Bangladesh’s workforce and reduces poverty amongst the most vulnerable people by increasing access to decent work.

The policy makes two key provisions regarding persons with disabilities. Firstly, it stipulates that a strategy be developed to increase participation of persons with disabilities in skills training. Secondly, it sets an overall target of 5% of enrolments for persons with disabilities across all skills development programs. 

Working Group 

In order to implement the provisions of the NSDP, the National Skills Development Council (NSDC) Secretariat in collaboration with ILO TVET Reform Project constituted a Working Group on Disability Inclusion in Skills Development. The Working Group consists of 30 representatives from 13 key government ministries and agencies, employers and workers organizations and organisations working with disabilities. A key feature of the Working Group is the participation of people with disabilities themselves. 8 representatives are from organisations or networks run by disabled people or their guardians, and two of these are specifically working with women with disabilities.

I feel very honoured that my organisation is part of this Working Group. People with disabilities are very much excluded from the development of our country and it is hard to get heard, especially at the policy level. This group will make change because it has the direct involvement of people with disabilities, including women, and we are working hard, from our hearts. Ashrafun Nahar Misti, Working Group Member, Women with Disabilities Development Foundation 

Current Progress 

This meeting was the seventh time the Working Group met in plenary, in addition to a number of sub-group meetings focusing on specific issues. Six key areas for change, which will form the basis of the National Strategy, were presented and discussed in this meeting:

  • Policy and Systems: institutionalizing change into policies and programmes
  • Participation: including disabled people in all skills development programmes and in all capacities
  • Awareness and Capacity: changing attitudes on disability inclusion and developing skills of all stakeholders to address inclusion issues
  • Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation: of infrastructure, and developing inclusive trainings
  • Employment and Business: linking training with employment and self-employment opportunities for disabled people
  • Knowledge and Research: developing information on disability and skills training

As a parent of an autistic child, the opportunity to be part of this group and advocate for changes for disabled youth at a policy level is really inspiring. The organisation I work with does a lot of good things in the sector but initiatives like this can actually make nationwide change. Sajida Rahman Danny, Working Group Member, Parents Forum for Differently Able

A new way of thinking 

The key message coming out of the work being done is that every vocational training course should be inclusive of people with disabilities. Disabled people should have choice over the training they want to pursue, just as people without disabilities do.

People with disabilities are in very diverse situations as regards to their impairments, capabilities and social situation. Because of this diversity they should not be restricted to specialised courses. Of course there are courses that are not suitable for some disabled people; but there other disabled people that can do that same course.

We are focusing on work capacity, not incapacity. Instead of a welfare-based approach, we are trying to follow a rights-based approach. Should we specifically identify jobs for persons with disabilities? Perhaps at the very start when we are first exposing them to the labour market, but then persons with disabilities should have the same choices as everyone else. Can we actually make change? This is our country; persons with disabilities are our citizens, my brothers, my sisters. Yes, we can, and we are doing it. Md Tayabul Islam, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of Bangladesh.

Next Steps

The Working Group has now finalised its input to the National Strategy, based on the presentations made and discussions had at this seventh plenary session. Based on this input, a draft strategy will now be prepared for presentation to key stakeholders at a National Consultation Workshop.