Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Training Disability Representatives to work with local district officials

Light for the World – a global disability and development NGO working primarily in low-income rural communities – has set up a programme in the Pursat province of Cambodia to create and train Commune and Village Disability Representatives (CDRs and VDRs) to advocate for inclusive policies. Local people are trained on advocacy, disability, and meeting facilitation; they then meet with and collect data from persons with disabilities; and they then go on to represent these individuals in commune and district meetings. As of 2018, 251 persons have been trained and their roles have led to policy changes, including access to free health care and assistive devices.

“Before there was a CDR, there was no information and data. Now we have a list of persons with disabilities in our community. We also go to the community to talk to people.”

About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Advocacy and Communication for Change
Organisation:Light for the World
of Implementation


  • To date, 22 Commune Disability Representatives and 229 Village Disability Representatives have been trained.
  • Some 2,700 people with disabilities have participated in village planning meetings.


Cambodia has a decentralized government where issues are first brought up by citizens at the village level and then move up to commune and district meetings. Persons with disabilities often lack the communication and advocacy skills necessary to introduce their issues into the government system.


A person collecting data from a child with disabilities.

VDRs and CDRs are trained on advocacy, disability awareness, and meeting facilitation in order to advocate for inclusive policies and annual budgets. VDRs are residents chosen by a vote from each village community, and CDRs are current staff members of the Commune Councils who are selected to represent persons with disabilities as part of their existing roles. VDRs and CDRs meet with persons with disabilities and their families individually or via village planning sessions (local government meetings where input is sought from residents) to collect information on their needs. They then attend planning meetings at the commune and district level to represent persons with disabilities and to input the collected issues into annual investment plans and budgets. The project aims for persons with disabilities to become self-sufficient in implementing inclusive policies and change, thus moving away from reliance on foreign NGOs.

Between 2016 and 2018, 22 CDRs and 229 VDRs were trained, and their input has led to successful policy outcomes such as access to free health care and free assistive devices for persons with disabilities.


The project is funded by Light for the World Netherlands and implemented via Disability Development Services Programmes, an NGO located in Cambodia’s Pursat province. The cost of the project between 2016 and 2017 was $29,617 and covered implementation in the 229 target villages and 22 communes.

Representatives are currently active in half the villages in the province, and the project is being expanded to the remaining half. In 2017, the project hosted a learning visit from organizations working in Laos that are beginning to implement a similar initiative. The simplicity of the project makes for strong replicability potential in the context of similarly decentralized governments.

Meeting with the commune council in the commune building.


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