The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) last week Thursday drilled members of Mchinji District Executive Committee (DEC) on issues to do with disabilities as part of its awareness drive under a three-month pilot project on mainstreaming disability rights with financial support from the Atlas-alliansen of Norway through the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA).
ECM National Education Coordinator, Stephen Ndhlovu said the meeting with DEC members was a crucial one as it will enable policy makers in the district to treat with cautious issues related to disability rights hence mainstream their activities in favour of people with disabilities.
Ndhlovu said this was in line with the goal of the project which is to contribute towards the reduction of incidences of stigma and discrimination among people with disabilities in the district.
According to Ndhlovu, people with disabilities face many challenges, citing access to education and health services as some of them.
He said it is against this background that the project seeks to reduce such challenges by raising awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities among different stakeholders, duty-bearers and community leaders hence one such meeting in Mchinji.
Federation of Disability Organization in Malawi (Fedoma) chairman for central region Juma Mkandawire observed that the environment around many public places like schools and government offices are not conducive as they do not recognize people with disabilities.
“It is high time that policies to do with disability are well taken care of. Let our attitudes abuse rights of the disabled hence we should strive to respect disability rights,” said Mkandawire.
Mkandawire said disability issues should be regarded as an advocacy issue such that policy makers should have an inclusive approach whenever planning for their activities.
He said the challenge so far is that there is no accessibility in terms of the flow of knowledge and information hence policy makers have a crucial role to play in making sure that they are in the fore-front in raising awareness and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.
Fedoma’s Inclusive Education District Manager for Mchinji, Malonje Phiri said a lot of disability challenges are for instance faced in education sector because of the infrastructure set up of most schools which are not friendly to the people with disabilities.
“Let our schools be friendly for all learners. We are also calling upon specialist teachers in these schools. We want children leaving with disabilities to have access to education so that they leave an independent life in future,” said Phiri, adding that “We don’t want disabled children to be roaming in streets and begging”.
Meanwhile, Director of Planning and Development at Mchinji District Council, Justine Kathumba has commended ECM for equipping them with knowledge in issues of disability rights.
“Honestly, we didn’t know that we were violating some of the rights of people with disabilities through our acts but from now onwards, we promise to be changed ones. We will strive to mainstream disability rights in all our activities as policy makers,” he said
Contributing on the same district’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Peter Chambewu added his voice by calling upon ECM to utilize the available media houses in the country by raising more information as regards to disability rights.
Blessings Mwale from the Electricity Supply Corporation (ESCOM) in Mchinji however, bemoaned the tendency of some parents who have disabled children and use them as a source of income in the streets rather than encouraging them (children) to work hard on their studies.