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20 May 2024

Fandy Dawenan: Never-Ending Journey for Inclusive Learning for Disabilities

The Winner of the 2024 Promoting Women's Empowerment and Social Inclusion Award

Fandy Dawenan has dedicated himself to empowering people with disabilities, particularly those who are blind or have low vision. His efforts have earned him recognition,  including the 2024 Australian Alumni Award for Promoting Women's Empowerment and Social Inclusion.

"I’m very grateful to the Australian Embassy for this award. But I feel I still have so much to accomplish”, said Fandy, a graduate of the Masters of Disability Policy and Practice Program at Flinders University. "There’s a lot more to do for the disability community in Papua, especially the blind, to improve their quality of life.”

Fandy's work in Southwest Papua has left an indelible mark on individuals with visual impairments. Since last year, he has been instrumental in training blind people in Sorong, Southwest Papua, through a project funded by the Australian Alumni Grant Scheme (AGS).

The project, titled “Improving the Independence and Quality of Life of People with Vision Impairment in Sorong City and Sorong Regency, Southwest Papua,” focuses on digital literacy, orientation and mobility training, and daily life skills. It aims to enhance the independence of blind individuals in Sorong City and Regency.

This ongoing project, which will be completed by the end of May 2024, has already benefited around 25 blind participants from Sorong City and Regency.

He proposed this project because blind people in Sorong City and Regency still face numerous daily challenges. "For example, they rely on others for travel and lack confidence in social interactions. They also struggle to operate digital devices, unlike their counterparts in other cities in Indonesia," Fandy explained.

Digital skills are essential today, supporting their daily life and future opportunities, including employment.

"With this training funded by AGS, I hope that blind individuals can become more independent and enhance their creativity and confidence," Fandy expressed.

Apart from this project, as Chair of Pertuni (the Indonesian Association for the Visually Impaired) in Southwest Papua Province, Fandy also made several breakthroughs related to digital literacy. This National Outstanding Teacher 2014 and Inspiring Teacher 2022 held computer training for four blind individuals in Sorong City with support from DPP Pertuni and the British Council. He also initiated Basic Leadership training for 18 blind people from Sorong City and Regency with support from DPP Pertuni.

Education and Training: A Path to Inclusion

Education and training are integral to personal growth, a principle Fandy understands deeply. Blind from birth, Fandy underwent three models of education: segregation, integration, and inclusion. He strives to ensure that blind and low-vision individuals have the same opportunities through education and training.

After graduating from Flinders University, Fandy taught at Sekolah Dasar Luar Biasa 73 Malaingkedi, Sorong, Southwest Papua, the elementary school he attended as a child. "I guide low-vision students at an inclusive elementary school in Sorong City to use reading aids like magnifying glasses and large print letters, making it easier for them to follow the learning process," Fandy explained.

Still, he has an unending drive to teach. He teaches English at SMAN 10 Raja Ampat Senior High School in Waigeo Timur Island, Southwest Papua, where all the students are non-disabled.

He also became a practitioner lecturer for one semester at Sorong Muhammadiyah University of Education (UNIMUDA) last year. "I taught the courses on inclusive education and education for children with special needs in the Early Childhood Education and Primary School Teacher Education departments," Fandy said.

Additionally, he contributes to multiple activities as a source. These include information dissemination activities on Inclusive Education for state elementary school teachers in Sorong organised by UNICEF and Inclusive Education socialisation activities for elementary, middle, and high school teachers throughout Raja Ampat Regency organised by the West Papua Teacher Mobilisation Centre.

Plan and dreams

Fandy still has many aspirations and ideas to implement. He acknowledges that his current programs have not reached many blind and low-vision individuals.

"Southwest Papua is a vast province. I want my programs to reach all blind and low-vision people here. There are several things needed to advocate their rights," Fandy said.

One of his goals is to advocate for bylaws concerning persons with disabilities in Southwest Papua Province. He also aims to collaborate with the government and various organisations to ensure the availability of accurate and detailed disability data.

"Adequate data is crucial for mapping out the needs of people with disabilities and ensuring their rights are met," Fandy emphasised.

Forming disability organisations in Southwest Papua Province is another key objective. "A unified effort is essential for a stronger advocacy," he added.

Finally, he hopes that Australian Embassy programs will also include more people with disabilities in Southwest Papua Province and Papua Land.

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