Unlocking an Inclusive Society for Persons with Disabilities in Southern Africa

Article 3 - Participants to the workshops listening to the lectures attentively

Participants to the workshops listening to the lectures attentively

From 26th to 29th April 2016, the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) organized a series of three training workshops at Esibayeni Lodge, in Mbabane, Swaziland, for the members of the Federation Organization of the Disabled People in Swaziland (FODSWA) as part of the “Building DPOs Capacity in Promoting an Inclusive Legislative Environment in Swaziland” project.
Funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), the project is focusing on capacity building of FODSWA, the official national affiliate of SAFOD in Swaziland, in promoting an Inclusive Legislative Environment in Swaziland. Some of the activities in the project include review of FODSWA Constitution and its Strategic Plan; conducting of the leaders and Directors Forum; training workshop on advocacy for FODSWA members; advocacy and lobbying sessions with Policy makers by FODSWA members.
The first full-day workshop on 26th April 2016 focused on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD); the second one-an-half days on 27th and 28th April 2016 focused on “Using Strategic Advocacy to Enhance Policy and Law Reforms”; whereas the third workshop 28th and 29th April 2016 was about the leadership, including reviews of the Constitution and Strategic Plan. All the workshops were facilitated by Mr. Waliuya Wamundila, from Disability Rights Watch (DRW).
In his opening speech, FODSWA President Mr. Mandla Methula said he was thankful to SAFOD for supporting the disability movement in the country in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, noting that the workshops were long overdue.
“I would like to urge you all members of the FODSWA present here to take these workshops seriously as it is opportunity for us to learn the skills and utilize them in our work. Most importantly, I would like to welcome Mr. Wamundila as our facilitator whom we know and trust that he has a lot of experience in these issues,’ he said.
Some of the key or deliverables of the projects include the development of a manual on “Advocacy and Lobbying on Inclusive Polices, legislation and Implementation of UNCRPD” which could be used as reference material for Persons with Disabilities when engaging with policy makers throughout the project; and the development of a Toolkit on the UNCRPD. Mr. Wamundila therefore used both the documents to facilitate the advocacy workshop and the UNCRPD workshop, respectively.
The project was conceived against the background that Swaziland is one of the countries that have made significant progress in addressing issues that pertain to Persons with Disabilities. The Kingdom of Swaziland ratified the UNCRPD in 2012. Subsequent to ratification of the UNCRPD, a National Policy on Disability was developed, aimed at promoting the mainstreaming of disability issues across all development programs of Government. The policy also seeks to implement the provision of the Constitution of Swaziland which recognizes and articulates the rights of Persons with Disabilities. The 2004 Swaziland Constitution provides protection for persons with disabilities and requires Parliament to enact relevant implementing legislation.
Despite this progress, Persons with Disabilities continue to be marginalized, discriminated against and socially excluded from mainstream activities. They have limited access to community services and opportunities available to non-disabled persons such as education, health, employment, public facilities including buildings and transport. Consequently, Persons with Disabilities tend to be overrepresented amongst the unemployed, the poor and the uneducated; this has far-reaching consequences to the disabled persons at individual, family and societal levels. There are no laws that mandate accessibility for persons with disabilities to buildings, transportation, or Government services.
The situation has further been compounded by the fact that there is a weak disability movement in Swaziland that can stand up and advocate for the rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly lobbying for appropriate legislation the implementation thereof, as well as the domestication of the UNCRPD on the part of Government. Most Disability Peoples Organizations (DPOs) do not have institutional capacity to sustainably carry out projects and programs aimed at advocating for a conducive legislative environment in the country.
Most crucially, the declining capacity of the Federation of the Federation Organization of the Disabled People in Swaziland (FODSWA), the only non-state entity established to coordinate, capacitate, and provide a unified voice or platform for the DPOs in Swaziland, has even worsened the situation further. In order to address some of the challenges, SAFOD and FODSWA are collaborating in undertaking capacity-building activities to support DPOs in advocating for the domestication of the UNCRPD and enactment of appropriate laws by December 2016.
This is on the basis that one of the mandates of FODSWA is actually to lobby Government, through its membership of DPOs nationwide, to implement existing pieces of national legislation and policies affecting Persons with Disabilities.

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