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Exciting times ahead: improving the world for people with disabilities

Marion Steff, December 2015
A lady named Miriam sits on the ground outside in Malawi, with the children of the Dawn Centre around her.

“I see governments and the disability movement working hand in hand to make the world right for people with disabilities”

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Every year, around 3 December, I get excited to celebrate this day.

I think about all the people I have met and all the initiatives I have seen and it simply makes me happy and joyful. I also think about my mum and my godmother who inspire me so much as well as all the beautiful people who are activists in their own way, with big or small actions to make the world a better place.

This year is different, I also feel very hopeful. Why? Because I have started to witness a new type of action: I see governments and the disability movement working hand in hand to make the world right for persons with disabilities. Yes, hand in hand. Yes, working towards the same goal of making sure that everyone, with and without disabilities, stops living in extreme poverty, and has a fair access to all basic human rights such as education, employment, and health. I now observe a clear political will to make a difference and this is fundamental.

For example, Tanzania is working actively to make its political election system inclusive of people with disabilities, Kenya is busy preparing a policy framework that supports disability budgeting and Pakistan is progressively rolling out inclusive education throughout the country with the support of the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

In November, I was invited to Johannesburg to the COPDAM project, an initiative which brings together governments and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in six Southern African countries (Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) to mainstream disability in all sectors of government. It was quite something to witness representatives of these governments presenting – in collaboration with disability activists – the progress they made so far in their respective countries. For instance, South Africa is working on a disability rights monitoring and evaluation framework while Lesotho, a country of two million inhabitants, has now appointed its first staff in the government working on disability issues. It has also published the Lesotho National Disability Mainstreaming Plan.

Back home in the UK, I am glad to see how DFID has been actively working with civil society organisations to ensure its work is becoming more inclusive of persons with disabilities. It is fair to say that over the past year, DFID has not only led the Sustainable Development Goals’ motto to ‘Leave no one behind’ but has also become a leader in the disability field and it is something to be proud of! The world is celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities; let’s enjoy the celebration but let’s be hopeful too; real change is coming because the political will is there! Meanwhile, have a look at DFID’s updated Disability Framework and check out Sightsavers’ Put Us in the Picture campaign.

Read more: International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

By Marion Steff, Policy Advisor on Inclusion at Sightsavers

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