Collaborative efforts in closing the disability inclusion gap

Collaborative efforts in closing the disability inclusion gap
December 12 14:26 2022
By Amanda Ellen Nicola Jojo

Persons with disabilities are more likely to experience barriers to full social and economic inclusion. These adverse socio-economic include inaccessible physical environments and transportation, the unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, non-adapted means of communication, gaps in service delivery, and discriminatory prejudice and stigma in society.

In a move to address these barriers, International Day of People With Disabilities was set aside by the United Nations. The 2022 edition was held under the theme “Transformative solutions for inclusive development the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.”

The Ambassador of Australia to Zimbabwe H.E. Bronte Moules hosted an event to take stock of progress towards the common goal of advancing the rights of persons with disabilities.

There were various stakeholders which included the civil society, United Nations missions and government representatives.

In her address, Ambassador Moules highlighted that disability inclusion is an essential condition for upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security.

“It is an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the contribution people with disabilities make to all communities everywhere.

“…we are also reminded that realising the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future that is sustainable and leaves no one behind. Yet, the world over, persons with disabilities are disproportionately marginalised, facing systematic barriers that exclude them and their families from economic, social, political and other spaces,” Ambassador Moules said.

Australia has been instrumental in lobbying for a disability-inclusive society, thus it is a cross-cutting priority for its international engagement and how it has mainstreamed and targeted disability-inclusive investments across various projects in Zimbabwe.

“We are committed to increasing awareness and advancing disability-inclusive development through practical steps that enable people with disabilities to participate fully in society and the economy. Australia was an active contributor to UN discussions for the Disability Convention and had significant input into its eventual form.

“We were one of the first countries to become signatory to the Convention, and subsequently to ratify it. Our work on disability inclusion in international forums includes Australian Rosemary Kayess’ re-election for a second term (2023-26) to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” Ambassador Moules said.

Disability rights are also a focus of Australia’s international engagement in the multilateral human rights system, including at the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly Third Committee.

Through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) – the Australian Government strengthens civil society internationally to deliver projects in a range of sectors including education, health, water and sanitation, and food security. Some of the local NGOs that benefited from the ANCP Manicaland Province TEAR Australia, Nzeve Deaf Centre amongst others.

“Through our Embassy’s small grants scheme – known as the Direct Aid Program – we have also provided support for community projects for people with disabilities across Zimbabwe. Since 2018, over $210, 000 in small grants has been provided to local civil society organisations including the King George VI Centre & Healing with Horses in Bulawayo; Ndanga Rural District hospital in Zaka; Alive Albinism in Marondera, and Deaf Zimbabwe Trust Harare,”  Ambassador Moules said.

The United Nations Gender and Disability Coordination Advisor, Magdeline Madibela gave an overview on the work of the UN in Zimbabwe in advancing disability rights.

The Zimbabwe UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (2022-2026) has prioritized disability inclusion and rights across the four pillars: people, prosperity, planet and peace to promote the realisation of the National Vision 2030, and the National Development Strategy 1

“Under the leadership of UN resident Coordinator, the UN Family continues to implement the UN Disability Inclusion Scorecard as a measure to operationalize the United Nations Disability Strategy for strengthening disability mainstreaming capacities within the UN system at both programmatic and operation levels,” Madibela said.

She acknowledged the efforts being put by Zimbabwe towards putting in place disability specific laws, policies and programmes.

The UN works closely closely with Government, Organisations of Persons with disabilities and civil society organisations.

“Some of the UN joint Programme and individual Ageny Support Programmes that we are currently implementing include the Zimbabwe United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (UNPRPD) Project and the Spotlight Initiative,” Mdibela added.

The UNPRD Programme, the UN support continues to yield results in areas such as strengthened legal and policy framework for disability rights, meaningful engagement of OPDS and persons with disabilities, increased access to justice for persons with disabilities amongst other pertinent issues.

Moreover, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is committed to fulfilling, promoting, protecting and respecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

“The Government acknowledges that just like everyone else, persons with disabilities have human rights, hence they should occupy space in all facets of life, including in employment, education, healthcare, housing, music, sport, disaster risk management and many other areas,” Dr Peta the National Director of Disability Affairs said.

Dr Peta said the National Disability Policy came at a time when all the people of Zimbabwe are collectively moving towards achieving the national vision of an Empowered and Prosperous Upper Middle-Income Society by 2030.

“There is therefore a need for all of us to uphold the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda 2030, of leaving no one behind.

“I am also pleased to say that following the launch of the National Disability Policy by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the Department of Disability Affairs in the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare with support from the UN, has established a National Technical Committee on the Implementation of the National Disability Policy,” she said.

The Government of Zimbabwe is in the process of recruiting Gender, Wellness and Inclusivity Directors – one for each of the 21 Government Ministries. Each of these Directors will also be overseeing the disability agenda of each Ministry.

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