JB Promotes Disabilityrights At Harkin Summit In Washington

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Former President Joyce Banda says unless the international
community and national governments provide the necessary
mechanisms and environment to create employment for people with
disabilities, all efforts to promote and protect the rights of
people with disabilities will be futile.

She was speaking at the inaugural Harkin International
Disability Employment Summit held on December 8 and 9, 2016 in
Washington DC, United States.

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The main objective of the summit was to “begin a tradition of
bringing together change agents to develop strategies for
increasing disability employment around the world”.

Banda said in ‘advancing disability employment’, it was
imperative for stakeholders to have a clear understanding of the
global scope of the challenges that people with disabilities
face, particularly in the developing world, in order for them to
come up with effective and relevant interventions.

In most countries, she said, disability rights are non-existent
and that discrimination continues to deny persons with
disabilities, as well as workers who become disabled, access to
work.

“Households that have family members with disabilities have a
lower living standard than the average. People with disabilities
suffer various stereotypes, myths and stigma. In many developing
countries, particularly in Africa, people with disabilities are
regarded as outcasts,” noted Banda.

jb-promotes-disabilityrights-at-harkin-summit-in-washington

“Indeed, people with disabilities are more likely to be victims
of violence or rape, and less likely to obtain police
intervention, legal protection or preventive care. Women and
girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse,”
said Banda.

She said “genuine political” could remove “the intrinsic
barriers that deny people with disabilities their basic rights”,
including to fully and actively participate in economic activity
and access to employment.

Banda said when she was Malawi’s President between 2012 and
2914, she endeavored to improve the plight of people with
disabilities, including providing them with employment
opportunities by strengthening the Ministry of People with
Disabilities andappointing a disability rights activist to head
that ministry, signing into lawthe National Disability Bill,
introducing sign language on public television and ensuring that
all public and private places, infrastructure and facilities
were disability-friendly; and increased the capacity to train
special needs educators at all levels in order to enhance access
of learners with disabilities.

“I also directed the Ministry of Finance to allocate 30% of my
salary to Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA), a
government agency that works to help men and women with
disabilities to become more independent and self-sufficient by
providing vocational training centres,” she recalled.

Banda said these efforts were not only geared towards promoting
the rights of people with disabilities but also creating an
enabling and economically empowering environment that will
enable people with disabilities to realize their full potential
and ensure their full integration into the country’s socio-
economic development processes.

She called upon the private sector to design and adopt
affirmative policies, as a corporate responsibility drive, to
ensure that people with disabilities have access to education,
training and employment.

“I call upon governments, disability organizations, global
development organizations, businesses and civil society to
ensure programs, policies and funding fully include people with
disabilities, with a specific objective to create employment for
them to be self-reliant,” she said.

jb-promotes-disabilityrights-at-harkin-summit-in-washington1

Other high-profile people who spoke at the two-day summit
included Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano, the 11th president of
Gallaudet University in Washington (she is the first deaf woman
to hold this position), Andrew Imparato, Executive Director,
Association of University Centers On Disabilities, Jack Markell,
Governor of Delaware and Tom Harkin, US Senator.

Banda was introduced by Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special
Olympics. In her remarks, Banda hailed Tim Shriver for being
“hugely instrumental in promoting the rights of children and
adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the
world.

Banda said she first met Shriver in January, 2013 at Global
Development Summit at the Special Olympics in South Korea where
she requested Special Olympics to assist Malawi develop the
necessary programs and activities to become a model country in
empowering children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“In February 2014, my government, in partnership with the
Special Olympics, hosted the first ever ‘African Leaders Forum
on Disability’ in the capital, Lilongwe, to explore effective
interventions in support of people with disabilities, with
particular emphasis on people with intellectual disabilities,”
said Banda.

READ ABOUT HARKIN SUMMIT HERE: http://www.harkinsummit.org/about

Asmaa Mubita is a Kenyan journalist of international repute with over fifteen years of experience in broadcast journalism. Asmaa Mubita began his journalism career at the Kenyan state broadcaster (KBC) and later worked at the KTN owned by the Standard Group and Citizen Television, the flagship brand of Royal Media Services. These exploits together with his reporting experience with the Voice of America, CNN and BBC have been rewarded with local and global recognition.