Seeing the unseen: Disability through a lens

Daeng Starch lost her legs and fingers due to leprosy. Yet despite her disability, she can continue to work as a seamstress, producing clothes, pillow cases and flags from her home in the leprosy complex in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

With 650 million persons with disabilities living in the Asia-Pacific region, Daeng’s story is one of many who tend to be unseen, unheard and uncounted. But for this one woman at least, ESCAP’s work has provided a way to hear her story, and to see her too.

The picture of Daeng, entitled Working though Deprivation is the winner of the 2014 UN4U photo contest organized by ESCAP in partnership with United Nations partners, funds and agencies in Asia and the Pacific.

The photograph was taken by Masyudi Syachban Firmansyah in his hometown of Makassar, South Sulawesi. Masyudi’s passion for photography began in third grade and he has since gone on to take college courses to further develop his skills. Masyudi now finds and shares beautiful and insightful images of life in Indonesia with the world. As the winner of the UN4U contest, Masyudi will receive official recognition of his talents from the United Nations family in Bangkok and his winning picture will feature in a major publication in the next 12 months.

Despite the constant increase in numbers, persons with disabilities are often excluded from access to education, employment, social protection services and legal support systems and are subject to disproportionately high rates of poverty. They continue to face barriers in both their participation as equal members of society and violations of their human rights.

By 2012, the Asia-Pacific region had 36 Signatories and 27 States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, accounting respectively for 72 and 54 per cent of the ESCAP member States. However, since the adoption of the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific in late 2012, nine more governments have ratified the Convention and several more are in the midst of doing so.

The Incheon Strategy is the world’s first disability development framework –– with 10 specific, time-bound disability-inclusive development goals, 27 targets and 62 indicators. ESCAP is supporting member States to implement the Strategy, monitor progress and ultimately improve the lives of the region’s persons with disabilities. Learn more about the Incheon Strategy

The 2014 UN4U photo contest was organized by the United Nations Communications Group in Bangkok, led by ESCAP. Participants were encouraged to share their images and stories over four weeks and over 280 pictures were entered into judging, with 50 finalists selected.

Follow our winner, Masyudi, on Instagram:, Twitter @Masyudinho, or visit his blog for more photos: