EASPD members elected a new Board member during the last General Assembly in Salzburg. There were two candidates; Ms Damira Benc who is Director of Centre for Vocational Rehabilitation and consultant in OSVIT from Croatia and Ms Valerija Buzan who is the President of SOUS, Director of CUDV Draga from Slovenia. From the two candidates, Valerija Buzan was elected and she has shared with us her thoughts on the new position in a short interview.
Since when are you working in the disability sector and why did you get involved in the organization for people with disabilities?
I have been working with persons with intellectual disabilities for more than thirty years and contributing to the CUDV Draga with my longstanding experience in this field, last 14 years as a director.
I am active in the care services for persons with disabilities and social policies in Slovenia – as a president of the umbrella organisation of training organisations (SOUS – non-profit NGO), president of the Social Chamber of Slovenia.
I am proud that I have been elected as a Board Member of the EASPD, a reputable international association. As a member of multiple professional and expert groups I cooperate in preparing draft regulations and other acts, or to acquire the opinion of other competent Ministries prior to the adoption of the regulation to the responsible authority. I am interested in the promotion of better employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, and with mutual cooperation and goals we will be able to succeed. Therefore, it is important for us to have a Slovenian representative in EASPD, that strives for high quality services to disabled people at the European level and that covers 29 different European countries.
What does the new position mean for you as a Slovenian representative of the sector? And how would you characterize the board’s role in the nonprofit organization?
As I mentioned above I am a member of several expert groups responsible for drafting and giving input to ministers on their policy and legal work. I am a part of a workgroup that prepares regulations and standards for social welfare services and qualification standards for different activities. I am putting efforts in setting equality objectives and equality duty in the social sector. I collaborate with different bodies on a national, regional and local community levels, with professional associations and communities, research and educational institutions in Slovenia and also abroad.
This new role as a Slovenian representative at EASPD means progression for me, for my past work in the social sector and my work with persons with special needs. I believe people must have equal rights and chances and I do my best to achieve this in my field of work. I think it is very important for us to have a representative on the European level. My opinion is that we can reach better progression through EASPD on our environment and society and enforce the rights that should be respected. We are already trying to improve and bring change to society by joining European associations and strenghten cooperation.
What are your main priorities that you would like to address in the EASPD Board?
I will connect and try to bring forward the cooperation between the organizations for persons with disabilities, blind and visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing, speech disorders, physically disabled, persons with difficulties in behavior and emotions and work care and training centers to improve lives and ensure better provision of services.
I think some changes are necessary. The start would be a reorganization of the current state. The next step should be bringing in new changes. My responsibilities include reminding people of human rights and to make use of good ambiance to promote our work outside the EU borders.
There are noticeable ongoing changes in the social field of work and resources are becoming smaller, especially in the times of crisis.
As an EASPD member I will bring to spotlight and promote equal provision of human rights and fundamental freedoms such as the right to primary education and the right to training, make efforts for excellent cooperation with the ombudsman, state authorities and local authorities. One of important issues is the rights of persons with special needs.
I believe we can achieve the change of long-term practice and current values by accepting different and vulnerable groups and include them in the society and I will also bring this into practice in European projects that are related to deinstitutionalization, disabilities and supporting persons with special needs.