Marta Elisa Codas
Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
Fellow Since 1999
This profile was prepared when Marta Elisa Codas was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Marta's legal framework will ensure that rights for people with disabilities are recognized at the national level. At the state and municipal levels, her network of "centers of responsibility" provide services within existing government structures across areas such as education, employment, and health. She is currently reaching 100,000 people with disabilities and their families and has active organizations in 11 of Paraguay's 17 states. Paraguay's democracy and the new National Constitution have led to general decentralization and the dissolution of health services in particular, presenting Marta with a problem as well as an opportunity. Before the state governments settle into place and find their roles, she is inserting cross-cutting services for people with disabilities into their agendas. Using her federation of parents and families, she is creating a revolution of demand on one hand and a high potential for the government and civil society to supply services on the other. She has pioneered local-level, civil society models of "one-stop shopping" service centers and has proved creatively that approaching the problem from both the national and the local levels offers concrete solutions.