JB says Malawi to hosts first ever African leaders forum on intellectual disability

Malawian President Joyce Banda has announced that she will host the first-ever African Leaders Forum on Intellectual Disability in partnership with Special Olympics in February 2014 in Lilongwe, Malawi.

President Banda made the official announcement at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, on a panel shared by Special Olympics Chairman Dr. Timothy P. Shriver.

“Malawi has approximately 400,000 people with intellectual disabilities.  In many cultures throughout Africa, stereotypes, entrenched stigma and misunderstandings about intellectual disabilities exist and the effects are devastating, with many people with disabilities experiencing severe social isolation and suffering from neglect, abuse and violence,” said President Banda.

“It is our moral obligation to turn the tide from intolerance and inaction to foster understanding and make real commitments to influence change.  I look forward to engaging my nation, Malawi, and indeed the entire continent, to join me in developing a results-driven, inclusive approach to improving the plight of our children and adults with intellectual disabilities.”

President Banda speaking during the Clinton Hunger
President Banda speaking during the Clinton Global Initiative

In support of the Malawian National Disability Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), President Banda will work in partnership with Special Olympics, civil society and key development organizations to encourage all African countries to integrate people with intellectual disabilities fully into their communities, and into development strategies pursued by African governmental, development and civil society organizations.

Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, Dr Timothy Shriver described Banda’s announcement as timely as Africa needs to do more to look after people with disabilities.

“President Banda has shown a strong commitment in the leadership of developing an inclusive Africa.  In her first 100 days in office, she passed the Malawi Disability Act, mandating in law the rights of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Dr Timothy Shriver,

Dr Shriver described the creation of the first-ever African Leaders Forum on Intellectual Disability as a critical next step in advocating for change at the highest level and ensuring that more than 90% of children with intellectual disabilities in Africa and the developing world aren’t denied the right to education and other services.”

The two-day forum will call upon heads of state, national governments, development organizations, scholars and industry leaders from throughout Africa to join Malawi in achieving full social integration of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  The forum is designed to foster interaction and collaboration between these leaders and key stakeholders from civil society, development agencies  and business organizations to identify best practices – in the areas of sports, health, education, early childhood development and public awareness – that can be implemented and brought to scale at the local and national levels.

During the Panel discussion, President Banda discussed problems that people with disabilities face in Malawi.

Dr Banda noted that people with disabilities are not given a chance to socialize with others and as such their rights are being violated.

The Malawi leader said for her ending the many problems that people with disabilities face is a collective job from leaders, chiefs and the community.

“Everyone has to take part in ensuring that people with disabilities also enjoy their rights just like any other person, we all have to take part to ending the stigma and start seeing people with disabilities as our partners in development,” Said Banda

Dr Banda said her 30percent salary cut goes directly to Malawi Council for the Handicapped through the Ministry of Disability and the elderly as her commitment to training more people with disabilities. She says the money is aimed at providing different skills to the people instead of giving them handout.

This year’s CGI Annual Meeting theme is ‘Mobilizing for Impact,’ leaders are convening to explore strategies to determine how to best mobilize the right entities to create sustainable success in their organizations and environments.

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