Malawi: Lack of Awareness Increasing Disability Rights Abuses

April 20, 2015

Courtesy of AllAfrica

Lilongwe — Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Edith Mkawa has said lack of public awareness among the public is increasing the abuse of disability rights.

She said many Malawians are not aware of the Disability Act and rights of people with disabilities saying concerted communication efforts would help increase awareness and reduce misconceptions on disability.

Mkawa said this at a stakeholders meeting on development of a disability communications strategy on Tuesday.

She said the current spate of abuses including that on people with albinism is fueled by lack of knowledge and awareness which she says would be overturned with proper communication.

"People have wrong beliefs about disabilities and now we need more correct information and increased publicity. Now we need everyone to know the rights of people with disabilities and how the general public should act towards people with disabilities.

"Change is necessary and the communications strategy will assist general public and decision makers to have correct information and act to ensure that people with disabilities have access to information and enjoy all human rights," said Mkawa.

Mkawa said the country already has laws underguiding disability and what remained was participation of all Malawians to safeguard the rights.

"At the local level the government enacted the Disability Act to facilitate promotion and protection of the rights of people with disabilities in the country. However, dissemination of these rights instruments has been a challenge.

"It is in line with this that the Department of Disability and Elderly Affairs started developing the Disability Communications Strategy to ensure well coordinated dissemination efforts of disability information and documentation. However due to financial constraints the process was not completed," she said.

She added, "For the public to be knowledgeable on disability information and documentation there is need for coordinated efforts and identification of communication methods among stakeholders in the sector. We are aware that effective communication is dependent on the availability of information and the way it is presented. As such, the department found it necessary to form a basis for successful and well coordinated awareness efforts."

Godfrey Banda a representative from Disability Youth Network from Blantyre said the general public and authorities should work together to support people with disabilities. He cited limited access to education among youths with disabilities as a major challenge.

The Department of Disability and Elderly affairs organized the meeting of stakeholders in disability to solicit information on developing the disability communications strategy. The communication strategy development has been funded by Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Department of Disability has partnered with the Department of Information to work on the strategy.