The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) with financial support from the Atlas-alliansen of Norway through the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) has embarked on a three months pilot project on mainstreaming disability rights in the Human Rights and Theology project which will be implemented in the central region district of Mchinji.
Outlining the ECM project content at NCA’s Malawi office, ECM’s National Education Programmes Coordinator, Stephen Ndhlovu said the goal of the project is to contribute to the reduction of incidences of stigma and discrimination amongst people with disabilities in Mchinji district.
Ndhlovu said that people with disabilities face enumerable challenges citing access to education and health services as some of them. He said that the project aims to reduce such challenged by raising awareness on the rights of person with disabilities to different stakeholders, duty bearers and community leaders.
“In 2008 it was estimated that 4.18 percent of Malawi’s population consisted of People with Disabilities (PWDs). PWDs face enumerable challenges to access different services. For example, in education, in terms of enrolment and attendance, it is estimated that 35 percent of PWDs have never attended school compared to 18 percent among the non-disabled; hence school attendance among them is significantly lower compared to those household members without a disability,” He said
Ndhlovu said learners with disabilities also experience many challenges in accessing education which include: lack of specialist teachers, inadequate instructional materials and inhospitable learning environments as classes are too large coupled with inaccessible infrastructure.
According to Ndhlovu, it is against this background that ECM would like to raise awareness on disability rights through popularisation of laws promoting rights of PWDs, building the capacity of PWDs on rights and responsibilities and strengthening networking and advocacy initiatives aimed at demanding for better services for PWDs.
“Deliberate effort will be made to identify people with disabilities in order to target them with project interventions. This will be done in the Human Rights and Theology project targeted areas in Mchinji,” said Ndhlovu, adding that “School Management Committees, Parent Teacher Associations in selected schools in Mchinji will also be targeted in the project.
Head of Programmes at NCA, Esther Masika said a full project will be developed that will run for a longer period in many districts as long as this pilot phase is successful.
She said NCA expects that there will be an increased participation in society by people with disabilities and that they will be able to enjoy equal rights and opportunities through the project’s interventions.
Meanwhile, Programme Manager for Federation of Disability Organisation in Malawi (FEDOMA), Naomi Kalua has commended both ECM and NCA for mainstreaming disability issues in their existing programmes saying many organisations have been sidelining disability issues hence a call to them to emulate the initiative that ECM and NCA have embarked on.