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On 19th November 2014 nearly 40 regional and national organizations devoted to advocating for a more inclusive environment for Persons with Disabilities gathered in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) for a noble occasion: the official launch of the African Disability Forum (ADF). The ADF is a new and remarkable advocating tool set up to further widen the chances of cooperation in the field of disability, and to promote an advancement towards the rights and inclusion of African with Disabilities.
The need to establish a new advocating forum has been officially acknowledged a few years back: on 28-29 November 2012 Mr. Shuaib Chalklen, the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development, convoked a Consultative Meeting that led up to launching the activities of an ADF Interim Working Group in charge of giving a structure to the upcoming forum in terms of organization, membership and areas of work; just two years after, the intense work of the Interim Working Group has come to an end. Although there have been several attempts to promote the foundation of a continental forum (The Pan African Federation of the Disabled, African Disability Alliance), the African Disability Forum represents the first effort to comprehensively cluster together the wide variety of African actors involved in the field of disability at a continental level.
Among the primary objectives of the ADF identified by the Interim Working Group there are some worth focusing on. The key words we should highlight while analyzing the objectives of the ADF are “awareness” and “inclusion”. These words reflect the major challenges faced by Africans with Disabilities.
lack of awareness and inclusion are the major challenges faced by Africans with Disabilities
Firstly, Africans with Disabilities have to be recognized and accepted as individuals entitled to rights, rather than cursed human beings to be hidden and left alone. That is the reason why the first target set by the ADF, “Promote awareness of disability rights and disability inclusion among persons with disabilities, DPOs, development NGOs, governments, public and private employers and the general public in Africa”, becomes a significant commitment for the newborn forum.
The second objective of the ADF is to “Advocate for the inclusion of disability issues and persons with disabilities in all development programs and projects in Africa“. By setting this goal, the ADF acknowledges that the lack of inclusion policies and practices constitutes a substantial challenge for all Africans with Disabilities, and generally for all Persons with Disabilities. This deficiency in terms of inclusion derives its origin from the first point we analyzed, namely the process of raising awareness and promoting acceptance of disability throughout the society; the full achievement of this process becomes a settling point to further pursue a strategy of inclusion.
The African Disability Forum will be committed to a wide variety of activities depending on the funding granted. It is worth mentioning that, among these activities, a special recognition has been given to women and children with disabilities with regard to participation in regional and national structures.
The launching of a new forum on disability could not have come at a better time, as on 3rd December we will celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. On this upcoming day, the African continent will have one more opportunity to celebrate since the need to face Persons With Disabilities’ struggles in an all-embracing way has been finally and officially recognized.
(Head Picture © Inclusion Europe/2010 – Shuaib Chalklen, UN special rapporteur on Disability, South Africa)
Francesco holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Turin University (Italy) and he’s majoring in Development Studies from the same academic institution. He dedicated the last three years of his life to humanitarian field projects in Eastern Africa especially throughout the Great Lakes Region, where he had the opportunity to work on inclusive education programs for children with disabilities and special needs as well as vocational training projects for disadvantaged youth. Francesco now lives in northern Burundi where he works as a Logistics Manager in a District Hospital.