By George Mwika Kayange
Over the past month, the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) and the entire disability sector has been mourning the death of SAFOD Chairperson, Rachel Kachaje, who died on 3 September 2020 in her home country, Malawi.
Mrs. Rachel Kachaje (seated front-left) successfully mobilized the disability community Southern Africa and beyond to raise the disability profile within in the regional and international development agenda.
In a condolence message issued by the Secretariat of SAFOD in Botswana on behalf of the SAFOD family (affiliates) from ten counties in the region, SAFOD Director General, Mussa Chiwaula, expressed shock over the untimely loss of a colleague, sister, and friend.
He said during the time she had worked with SAFOD after being elected to the position on the 25th November 2015, members of the Regional Executive Council (REC), the staff, and the entire membership of SAFOD found her to be someone who was very matured, pragmatic and a source of inspiration in REC, at the Secretariat, in the entire regional disability movement, and at the international level.
“In Rachel, we found someone who successfully withstood obstacles that impede many Persons with Disabilities and successfully lived her life with a lot of energy and positivity and proving that indeed disability is not inability,” he wrote.
Rachel was indeed a role model who inspired many people in her country, Malawi, and beyond. She proved that one can live a happy and positive life even though one has a disability. She was the Chairperson of the Disabled People International (DPI) where she inspired many persons with disabilities to raise the disability agenda in the international discourse.
“She was one of the splendid and distinguished leaders of the world disability movement, and enthusiastically committed to realization of the rights of persons with disabilities and full implementation of CRPD,” wrote Midori Hirano, Chairperson of DPI – Japan Assembly.
Besides being the Chairperson of Disabled Women in Africa (DIWA) until her demise, of which she was a cofounder, Rachel also served as ministry of Disability in Malawi. She also chaired the Commonwealth Disability Forum. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the African Disability Alliance (ADA) where she served two four-year terms.
ADA Chief Executive Officer, Kudakwashe Dube, described her as a champion of disability, human and women’s rights.
“Her contribution will forever form a strong foundation to the fight for human rights of persons with disabilities and particularly women with disabilities,” he said.
Rachel played a key role in the Governance of the African Network for Evidence–to–Action in Disability (AfriNEAD) since its inauguration in 2007. In recognition of her work in the advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities in Africa and globally, Stellenbosch University honored her with a Doctorate Degree in Arts and Social Sciences which she was going to receive in December of 2020.
AfriNEAD Chairperson, Prof Gubela Mji, who is also the Director of Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies at Stellenbosch University, said her passage left a deep void to the network.
Revealed Mji: “Many young persons with disabilities that have listened to Mrs. Rachel
Kamchacha Kachaje when she speaks about disability and human dignity matters attest that
they want to be like her when they grow old.”