“Let me tell you a personal story. I was born in a family where we had a sister who had a disability. My elder sister could not walk. In those days, if you had a disability, you were seriously marginalised. Some people in my village kept whispering that my parents had done something wrong to bear a girl who could not walk. My brother and I, Bingu and I, kept fighting boys who kept teasing us for having with a disability. I know what it means to grow up with disability.
And as some of you, I have a grandson who has autism. Some of you have seen him. He can’t talk, and he will never talk. When I meet him, sometimes it takes him a week to remember me. So, I know what means to live with disability.” , Peter Mutharika
Thyolo, December 5: President Peter Mutharika on Saturday reaffirmed his government’s commitment to promoting and respecting rights of persons with disabilities.
Speaking in Luchenza, Thyolo during this year’s International Day of People with disabilities, Mutharika said protecting and respecting rights of persons with disabilities was a prerequisite in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He said the SDGs could not be realised if other citizens, such as those with physical and intellectual disabilities, were sidelined in the development agenda.
“As a nation, we need to address the plight of persons with disabilities and mobilize support for their dignity, protection of rights and improved well-being,” Mutharika said.
“We need to promote full participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the development of the country.”
Mutharika said the country needed to appreciate what persons with disabilities did and achieved in society, adding that most of the times, their efforts went unnoticed.
“This could be done if we increase awareness on disability issues in the country,” he said.
Mutharika therefore urged all Malawians to desist from all forms of abuses and discrimination against people with different disabilities.
He said people should instead reflect their respective roles which they play in the lives of the disabled people.
“I will not tolerate anyone who will be found abusing these people. If you will be found abusing persons with disabilities, the law will take its course,” Mutharika warned.
He said he fully understood what people with disabilities faced in life, pointing out that he grew up with a sister who could not walk as she had some disability.
“My late brother [Bingu] and I most of the times would get into fights with our friends at school who used to poke fun at us because we had a sister who had a disability. They were doing this because of ignorance,” he said.
To ensure that persons with disabilities were recognised in society, Mutharika advised the ministry of gender, children, disability and social welfare to have a comprehensive data of all those with different disabilities in the country.
In her remarks, UN Resident Coordinator, Mia Seppo, commended the Malawi Government for its commitment to ensuring that persons with disabilities were being included in its development agenda.
“I would like to commend the government of Malawi for its commitment to protecting rights of persons with disabilities,” Seppo said.
She said among other things, Malawi had put in place a number of disability inclusive laws such as the Disability Act which “is there to promote the rights of these people.”
However, Seppo said despite efforts from different sectors, disabled women and girls with disabilities still faced multiple forms of discrimination when accessing health and other social services.
Earlier, Board Chairperson for Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA) Pastor Towera Masiku, asked Mutharika to consider putting in place a Disability Trust Fund that she said would facilitate the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the development agenda.
“The Disability Trust Fund is stipulated in the Disability Act (2013). It is a requirement by law that supports persons with disabilities. Once enacted, the fund will facilitate that no person with disability is left behind in the developmental processes,” Masiku said.
At the function, the Africa Disability Alliance honoured Mutharika with the ‘Ambassadorial Country Status Award’.
The award acknowledges the leadership role that government plays in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities.
A number of activities including a solidarity walk and different dances spiced up the commemoration, held under the theme ‘Achieving 17 SDGs for the future we want’.
The day also marked the onset of the MACOHA flag week where Mutharika bought the first flag at K 1.1 million.