SAFOD was invited to participate at the 10th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum held from 28th to 30th July 2014, in Harare, Zimbabwe. SAFOD Project Coordinator, George Kayange, represented the organisation at the forum where he made a presentation on the key issues affecting Persons with Disabilities in the SADC region which were incorporated into the forum’s Declaration and Communique.
The organizers of the meeting, the Southern African Development Community – Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO), an umbrella body of national associations of NGOs in the SADC region, together with the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCSA) and the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) extended the invitation following a meeting that SAFOD and SATUCC held two weeks earlier in Botswana where SAFOD lobbied for inclusion of disability on the programme.
The Forum, which ran a few days before the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit, is a platform for civil society in the region that meets every year to dialogue and reflect on issues affecting the SADC region.
The participation of SAFOD at the forum was a huge success as it did not only help to raise the profile of SAFOD as an organisation (as delegates got to know about its existence) at regional level but also significantly raised the profile of the issues that the organisation champions in Southern Africa. The fact that disability was for the first time included as a key issue on the programme as well as incorporated into the communique signified that the Secretariat’s networking efforts are beginning to bear fruits.
The challenge that remains now is for both the SAFOD Secretariat and its membership to take advantage of the SADC-CNGO Thematic Area on Disability, which provides a convenient platform on which we can continue to sustain our advocacy and lobbying for the mainstreaming of the disability issues at the SADC level.
In particular, SAFOD needs to take advantage of the goodwill demonstrated by the other CSOs to support our campaign for the Disability Protocol. For example, the 2016 target is the timeframe within which the Protocol should be in place, and the target has not been proposed by SAFOD. Rather the target was proposed and unanimously agreed by the delegates themselves at probably the largest gathering (over 300) of CSO representatives and activists who represented different sectors in the SADC.
Most significantly, our participation at the forum also provided us the opportunity to network with various stakeholders through a series of side-meetings, to the extent that we have been recognized by NCA-Malawi and MISA as their potential partners.