The Status of Disability Policy Discussions In Zambia

ImageAccording to the World Health Organization estimates, about 2 million women and men in Zambia, or 15 per cent of the population, have a disability. The Government of Zambia has adopted a number of laws and policies pertaining to persons with disabilities. The current 2012 draft Zambian constitution includes specific provisions for persons with disabilities under the bill of rights. The Zambian vision 2030 also recognizes streamlining of service delivery for persons with disabilities as key to achieving the goals and objectives of the Vision. The Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (TEVET) Act, 1998, states that the “special needs of people with disabilities will be taken into consideration”. The Workers’ Compensation Act (No. 10 of 1999), revises the law relating to the compensation of workers for disabilities suffered or diseases contracted during the course of employment.

The National Policy on Education, 1996, recognizes the right to education for each individual, regardless of personal circumstances or capacity. The Ministry of Education has overall responsibility for education, including special education. The National Employment and Labour Market Policy (NELP), 2005, shows the government’s intentions to provide for improved care and support services to vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities.

 The National Youth Policy, 2006, aims at including disabled youth in mainstream programmes and projects targeting youth. The Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission Act, 2008, aims at empowering people with disabilities economically through start-up businesses that will employ others. The government of Zambia  ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on the 1st of February,2010 and has signed  but not yet  ratified the optional protocol to the convention, which establishes  an individual  complaint  mechanism. So far, Zambia has adopted a number of laws and policies on persons with disabilities, including the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 06 of 2012, which was enacted by parliament on the 31st of July, 2012 in line with the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) 2011 to 2015 builds on the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP) 2006-2010. The Zambian current government recently revised the Sixth National Development Plan and has aligned it to its manifesto. The revised Sixth National Development Plan was not inclusive of Disability issues as the comprehensive section in the original SNDP was dissolved and combined with social protection to be called “Social Protection and Disability”. However the purpose of a complete separate section was meant to give proper mainstreaming guidance of disability issues into other sectors like awareness raising, education, medical care, rehabilitation and rehabilitation, accessibility and mobility. The Zambia Federation for Disability Organisations as an advocate for Persons with Disabilities has urged the Ministry of Finance to review the revised SNDP so that it can be clear and profound in mainstreaming disability issues into all sectors.

The Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health has been mandated to lead on disability issues in Zambia and is entrusted with formulating policy for persons with disabilities such as the Persons with disabilities Act 33 of 1996 which established the Zambia Agency for Persons with disabilities ZAPD; the act has now been repealed to the Disabilities Act 6, of 2012. The MCDMCH has formulated the National Policy on Disability in conjunction with various stakeholders including the Disability organizations and the policy has been completed, approved by cabinet and is currently awaiting its launch.

Part of the premise for the development of the ZAFOD-COPDAM initiative in Zambia is that the Zambian government assented to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability on upholding the dignity and justice of people with disabilities, as a measure aimed at reinforcing government’s commitment in streamlining the active participation of persons with disabilities in policy formulation and implementation. The ZAFOD-COPDAM project has built the capacity of the ZAFOD to negotiate and advocate for disability mainstreaming in all sectors of government and the Zambian Government has assured ZAFOD-COPDAM of its full commitment and support as it has recognized the good intentions of the project.

The Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health is in the process of formulating a National Disability Implementation Plan of the Persons with Disabilities Act in which it is looking forward to the input of the Disabled People’s Organizations. The Zambian government has said that the ZAFOD-COPDAM project’s outcome of coming up with a National Disability Mainstreaming Plan is an opportunity to adapt the information that will be contained in the plan, into the National Disability Implementation Plan.

The ZAFOD-COPDAM project has engaged a consultant and has held consultative meetings with various stakeholders. A consultative workshop was held and it endeavored to make consultations on the desired contents of the National Disability Implementation Plan by the Disability movement. The main purpose of the workshop was to present the Draft National Disability Mainstreaming Plan and get feedback from the various stakeholders. This workshop enabled the disability movement to make a meaningful contribution to the intended National Disability Implementation Plan. Moreover, the ZAFOD-COPDAM consultant is in the process of concluding the final draft plan and the submission of this document to government will be done with the guidance from the Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health as it intends to launch its plan in December, 2013.

The MCDMCH and the Ministry of Justice are also in the process of amending the Disability Act in the first quarter of the year 2014.The Ministry of Justice will facilitate the amendment process and the stakeholder consultations will start in January, 2014. ZAFOD-COPDAM is ensuring a disability perspective in all aspects of policy and legislation, effective implementation and enforcement of existing disability laws and policies. The National Disability Implementation Plan will facilitate the implementation of the already existing pieces of legislation and government policies.

Published by gkayange

A journalist dedicated to making a difference in the lives of marginalised communities, including persons with disabilities.

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