SAFOD was among the participants at the Disability Roundtable organized by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) held on 1st April 2015 at Happy Valley Hotel Ezulwini, Swaziland, that brought together the country’s Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs), Government officials responsible for disability programs, academia, and other stakeholders in the field among others.
One of OSISA’s strategic focus areas is a commitment to deepening democracy, protecting human rights and enhancing good governance in the region, building the capacity of disabled people’s organisations, their networks and umbrella bodies to combat discrimination and exclusion. The delegates to the Disability Roundtable were hence invited to discuss different disability rights issues, informing the development of strategies on how these can be addressed.
During the meeting, there was a general consensus among delegates that most of the national disability laws that have been enacted in some SADC Governments were meant simply to appease the disability movement, just to show they were doing something. But when it comes to implementation, not much was happening. The situation resulted in a lack of awareness about disability issues among the public members.
However, in her presentation, OSISA representative expressed optimism that the laws and pieces of legislation was the first step in the right direction. She said the legislations provided a strong basis for DPOs and other activities to lobby Government on various services hence it would be rather strategic to view the legislation as an opportunity.
“Even where the laws are not working, but the fact that there is an enabling law or policy in place makes it easier for those involved in advocacy to leverage on them and lobby Government to fulfil certain mandates,” she argued.
It was also observed during the forum the women’s movement in the region was weak, and participants agreed that there was a great need to put in place strategies and programs aimed at revitalizing it.
It was also recommended that the OSISA program on strengthening academic institutions to empower persons with disabilities and their DPOs through research and teaching should be sustained if the disability movement in the region were to remain strong.
The recommendation was based on the fact (research data) that more persons with disabilities remain uneducated than those without disabilities due to poverty, stigmatization and other factors which ultimately results in weak disability movement.