The Organisational Development Project is part of the FFO’s Theory of Change, to contribute to organisation development and Human Rights training that empowers its partner organizations. FFO’s partner organizations, such as SAFOD, contribute to change in attitude towards persons with disabilities in society in general, in governments and other spheres.
The project will strengthen SAFOD as a regional disability federation to contribute towards making its affiliates stronger and the civil society independentin the Southern Africa region.
The project has prioritized the following key strategies for the period 2016-2019 to work for inclusion of persons with disabilities in Southern Africa:
To strengthen SAFOD affiliates’ good governance capacity to promote the rights of persons with disabilities on national level.
To strengthen SAFOD’s advocacy towards SADC and the African Development Bank to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities on regional level.
To develop a UNCRPD monitoring and shadow report program for SAFOD affiliates.
On 7th July 2016, members of Botswana Federation of the Disabled (BOFOD) – the official national affiliate of the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) in Botswana – expressed gratitude that the AT-Info-Map project is being piloted in their country. They pledged moral and technical support to ensure that it achieves its objectives set for the initial first year.
AT-Info-Map is a three year project (2016-2019) that has the goal of mapping the availability of different types of assistive technology (AT) in 10 countries in Southern Africa. Identifying what types of AT are available and where those products are located will help to connect persons with disabilities to the available AT near their community. Through the project, it is also envisaged that the the supplier and other key actors will be supported in identifying AT needs, and suppliers, manufacturers, and designers will be informed of unmet public demand.
Key actors include public AT providers (clinics, community health centers, secondary and tertiary hospitals, schools), civil society, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) and businesses.
SAFOD, which is one of the four core implementing partners of the project – the other three include the University of Washington, AfriNEAD and Dimagi – will mainly rely on its affiliate, BOFOD, to help roll our the project at national level during the one year pilot before it can it can be scaled up to nine other countries in Southern Africa thereafter.
“We really appreciate for initiating this project, particularly for choosing Botswana as the country to pilot the project. This is very innovative as far as BOFOD is concerned and we are ready to provide all the support you may need from us,” said Mr. Thuso Rasetapa, BOFOD General Secretary.
During the meeting SAFOD and Dimagi representatives, Mr. George Kayange and Ms. Rashmi Jagdish, respectively, gave the BOFOD members an overview of the project, including explaining who the end-users will be when the mobile App is developed.
The four core implementing partners of the Assistive Technology Information Mapping (AT-Info-Map) Project – SAFOD, AfriNEAD, Dimagi and UW – have so far been consulting a number of stakeholders, including AT suppliers, in Botswana. The latest supplier to be consulted is the Deaftronics, a company that assembles and provides solar rechargeable hearing aids and related accessories.
During the meeting held on 5th July 2016 with Deaftronics Founder and Operational Director, Mr. Tendekayi Katsiga, informed SAFOD and Dimagi officers that the CommCare App, when deployed, would help the company in its marketing drive for its products in Botswana and even in other nearby countries.
Deaftronics, which is owned and run by hearing impaired individuals who are also internationally certified in micro soldering techniques used in the aviation industry, has endeavored to develop its business network and improving its positioning to become a specialist centre for hearing aids in Africa. The company’s hearing aid unit, called Solar Ear, includes the first rechargeable hearing aid battery which lasts for 2-3 years and can be used in 80 percent of hearing aids on the market today. It is solar powered and can be charged via the sun, household light, or a cell phone plug.
“Besides providing basic information like the type of AT that we specialize in, our location and contacts, our expectation is that the Commcare App should also be able to provide links to our videos so that potential clients should be able to watch and appreciate our products before making contact with us,” said Mr. Katsiga.
While some of the primary aims of the At-Info-Map project include informing, through the App, the AT suppliers, manufacturers, and designers of unmet public demand, as well as connecting persons with disabilities to the available AT near their community, the App may also likely help AT suppliers in their marketing efforts for their products should some of their expectations – like those of Deaftronics – be taken on board.
Mr. Katsiga realized that hearing impaired people in rural Africa who were handed out hearing aids by various NGOs could not sustain its use as batteries were scarcely available and expensive. Mr. Katsiga’s simple solution was solar-powered hearing aids designed and manufactured by deaf people for deaf people.
Apart from providing training and empowerment to different centers including the Institute for the Deaf in Jordan, the National Institute for the Deaf in Cape Town, South Africa and Solar Ear in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Deaftronics is having significant impact both in Botswana and the whole of Africa, especially in the rural settings. Today the low-cost technology is reaching even more African children, with over 10,000 units distributed throughout the continent. In Zimababwe alone, more than 2,000 Solar Ear units have been distributed through Mercy Corps and the Nzeve Deaf Children’s Center in Mutare. The centre works closely with Mr. Katsiga, who introduced the invention there to make sure that children would be able to attend classes and learn, in spite of their hearing impairment.
The BITRI Youth Associate ICT Programme (ICTAssociate@BITRI) is part of the Botswana Government’s plan to empower youth through ICT. The programme is aimed at developing ICT, entrepreneurial, critical thinking and problem-solving skills of the a least 60 participants through an internship.The mandate of BITRI in this programme is to identify and/or develop appropriate technology solutions in line with national priorities and needs of Botswana.
As a potential strategic partner of the At-Info-Map Project in Botswana – the country in which the three-year project is being piloted before it can be scaled up to nine other countries in Southern Africa – BITRI expressed interest to host the half-day CommCare Workshop at the University of Botswana for some of its ICT Associates, mainly those who are currently on a two-year research programmes where they will learn to start small ICT businesses by February next year.
According to Dimagi, who are the innovators of the App, the CommCare is an open source mobile health platform which consists of two main technology components: CommCare Mobile and CommCareHQ. CommCare enables easy electronic data collection, decision support, and patient/case management
The orientation workshop, facilitated by Dimagi, was organised to provide BITRI and its ICT youth associates an opportunity to appreciate At-Info-Map in general and the CommCare App in particular, while discussions are underway to explore how best BITRI could potentially become an effective and strategic partner of the At-Info-Map.
One of the workshop participants, Lucia Otsetswe, said as an aspiring entrepreneur, she was always excited to keep up to date on the latest industry trends in mobile applications technologies, and was eager to learn different softwares or tools used to develop mobile applications.
“When I heard about CommCare training, I was really looking forward to learning about it, and how I can use it to develop my mobile applications. Commcare is really interesting, and very easy to learn and easy to use,” she said.
Lucia, however, noted that even though they managed to create their simple mobile applications using Commcare during the training, she wished the workshop had ran beyond half-day.
She added: “I wish we had more time so we also learn about developing databases and connecting it to the user interfaces we built. Just a few days, I believe we could be launching our mobile applications by now! But from what we learnt at the training, I am confident to say I can develop a full application and I am working on it. It is really easy to learn.”
On June 16, Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) Director General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, was among the delegates at the ‘Leaving no one behind’ Conference held in Oslo, Norway, in connection with Oslo Education week, whose theme focused on how to reach the last 10%, vis-à-vis the most marginalized children when school gets priority for development.
The organizers of the conference, Norad, commendably put the issue of inclusive access on the agenda of the conference not only to highlight the importance of the issue, but also to emphasize the fact that not much has been done to operationalize the school plans, policies and investments.
Mr. Chiwaula observed that as long as the disability sector was not involved, SAFOD did not believe that the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) processes and tools would have significant impact on the way the Local Education Group and/or the Sector Working Groups was organized and collaborated in countries like Malawi and Nepal. During the conference, he questioned the school representatives from Nepal and Malawi if they had involved disability organizations in the planning. It was established that none of them had involved disability organizations in particular.
On his part, Morten Eriksen, CEO of Atlas Alliance, said: “It is discouraging to realize that there are few plans to reach precisely those most marginalized, especially children with disabilities”.
Another key issue that emanated from the conference was the need for better data for inclusion, to ensure no one is left behind. It is encouraging that greater efforts are being made to support the collection of disaggregated data. One important example is in relation to including people with disabilities in household data such as UNICEF MICS, as well as in census data. Nora Ingdal from Save the Children highlighted that participation, involvement and statistics as the main factors for successful integration when she summed up the conference. There was a strong consensus among the delegates to include questions developed by the Washington Group, for example, aimed at identifying disability to be used systematically in surveys and administrative (including EMIS) data.
Mr. Mitch Loeb, one of the brains behind a new set questions that are now used in data collection on disabled people in developing countries, had good news to convey to the conference – particularly the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Norad and Education Association – that the said questions set for Washington Group was now in use in several countries.
“We get good feedback from several of the questions that will be used in population surveys ahead,” Mr. Loeb told Anne Nyeggen of Atlas Alliance Atlas Alliance.
He added: “Statistical survey of disabled people in poor countries have long been nonexistent. Questions are designed in such a way that people will not fully respond to them. While Western countries in the nineties reported that 15-20% of the population had a disability, the figures were, for example, 0.9% in Zambia and 1.9% Zimbabwe. It turned out that the investigations were based on questions that people would not answer.”
He further explained that the system consisted of first checking if you had a disability, then proceed to get subcategories as defined if you were blind, deaf or “crippled”. Only 0.9% responded positively to these questions, as they did not identify themselves as disabled.
On 30th June 2016, SADC Ministers responsible for Education and Training and Science, Technology and Innovation met in Gaborone, Botswana, to review various draft policy documents and consider some for adoption.
One of such policy documents that were reviewed was the draft Southern Africa Education Inclusive Strategy for Learners with Disabilities which they unanimously approved after deliberation and consideration.
The need to develop the Inclusive Education Strategy was first brought to the attention of the line ministers at their meeting in Maputo, Mozambique in 2013, where they noted that a draft Inclusive Education Strategy was being developed as part of the Project on Promoting Inclusive Education for learners with Disabilities.
The strategy was informed by the findings and recommendations from a study on education for children with disabilities in Southern African conducted in 2010 by the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA). Subsequently, the strategy was developed through a consultative process in the region which included an experts meeting consisting of representatives from governments of Swaziland and Zimbabwe, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs), United Nations Agencies and Institutes of Higher Learning in the region held in March 2015 and a validation meeting of officials from SADC Member States held 16-17 June 2016.
The purpose of the Strategy is to make issues pertaining to access to quality education for learners with disabilities an integral part of all SADC Member States policies and programmes. The Strategy has six strategic priorities as follows: Policy development and harmonization of policies and programmes that will enhance access to quality education for all learners with disabilities; Capacity development and strengthening for implementation of a comprehensive inclusive education system that will benefit learners with disabilities; Scaling up and sharing of regional and national good practices; Promoting and strengthening of evidence based programmes planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Mobilization and allocation of adequate resources by SADC member states and partners; and Monitoring and evaluation of implementation of inclusive education system with including learners with disabilities.
SAFOD was among the strategic partners that participated at the Inclusive Education Experts Workshop organized by ADA held at Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport from 16th – 20th March 2015. Besides the draft SADC Inclusive Education Strategy for Learners with Disabilities, the workshop also discussed the draft Data collection tools on learners with disabilities in Southern Africa, and the draft Training manual for special education needs teachers.
ADA (formerly the Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities) had been coordinating the process of drafting the strategy with financial support from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). Throughout the process, ADA had been ensuring that all inputs from the different SADC countries and other partners had been incorporated accordingly before the document could endorsed by SADC responsible for Education and Training and Science, Technology and Innovation. SAFOD has been identified as one of the key stakeholders tasked with the responsibility of advocating for the implementation of the strategy.
Ahead of the Heads of State Summit to be held in August 2016 in Swaziland, the endorsement of the Inclusive Education by the ministers is, therefore, considered by both ADA and SAFOD as a significant milestone in the whole process of ensuring that the strategy becomes an official SADC document that can be owned and implemented by the SADC member States. SAFOD is now geared to champion the implementation through a series of awareness activities of the strategic among both Member States and other stakeholders.
On 16th June 2016, SAFOD Director General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, and Funksjonshemmedes Fellesorganisasjon (FFO) Secretary General Lilly Ann Elvestad, signed an Agreement in Oslo, Norway, for a human rights project that will seek to strengthen SAFOD affiliates’ capacity in good governance and promotion of human rights of persons with disabilities. The initiative aims at contributing to SAFOD being a visible and credible regional federation of national affiliates in 10 member countries in Southern Africa.
The project is part of the FFO’s Theory of Change, to contribute to organisation development and Human Rights training that empowers its partner organizations. FFO’s partner organizations, such as SAFOD, contribute to change in attitude towards persons with disabilities in society in general, in governments and other spheres. This leads to improved rights and living conditions for persons with disabilities.
FFO believes that improvements in living conditions of women and men with disabilities can happen if they become aware of their human rights and develop a vision for change, are empowered to organize, mobilize and take collective action for change at local, national, regional and international level. A solid knowledge of their legal rights, evidence of the facts of the present situation and effective methods to communicate and advocate their case is needed to use these tools to engage with and put pressure on decision makers and other important stakeholders to make policies and practices disability inclusive and take deliberate targeted action to mitigate discrimination and exclusion
For this reason SAFOD, the implementing partner, will seek to strengthen its advocacy towards the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Development Bank to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities at regional level. SAFOD will lobby and influence SADC and other strategic institutions like Africa Development Bank for increased resource allocation in line with the African Union Decade of Persons with disabilities and the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other international human rights frameworks. It will also map policies and priorities of policy makers within SADC and member States to ensure protection and promotion of human rights for male and female persons with disabilities in Southern Africa, and influence SADC to have disability as a key policy agenda and promote it to national governments and development partners.
Also realizing that the youth with disabilities have a very important role to play in ensuring that sustainability of the disability movement in the region, SAFOD will also seek to revive its Youth Wing. The SAFOD Secretariat has already put in place a strategy that will enhance the meaningful participation of Youth Wing members within their national DPOs’ structures so as to prepare them to take over leadership. The strategy will be an effective tool to prevent creating leadership vacuum or crises in DPOs as it is the case in a number of DPOs within the region. Furthermore, SAFOD will seek to strengthen participation of youths with disabilities in national and community development programmes beyond just the Youth wing members, through the mew Youth Ambassadors programme.
Another strategic area of intervention, as per the three-year signed Agreement, is the need to develop the capacity among the affiliate DPOs in the effective monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), including the production of periodic UNCRPD shadow reports. FFO and SAFOD acknowledge that the active participation of DPOs in influencing the reporting process is an important way in which to monitor, promote and follow-up the work of the CRPD Committee. DPOs may be involved at a number of different stages of the reporting process such as during the preparation of the State Party report, the preparation of reports submitted by national monitoring frameworks, and through the preparation of a parallel report by national DPO coalitions – and the role of SAFOD in this regard will be to capacitate DPOs to be able to they visible and active in all the stages.
To achieve this, SAFOD will adopt the Guidance Document for Effective Use of International Human Rights Monitoring Mechanisms to Protect the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published by the International Disability Alliance (IDA). The objective of this guidance document is to provide practical, hands-on strategies and advice to DPOs and DPO coalitions on the international human rights mechanisms.
Some of the activities will include leadership/good governance training, and targeted CRPD advocacy and communication training for SAFOD affiliates, including training of trainers for sustainability in affiliates; SADC and African Development Bank advocacy on targeted disability issues; national advocacy towards national governments on the same issues; participation in the yearly SADC CSO Forum; training program on CRPD shadow report writing; and youth exchange (peer work) between FFO Youth Wing and SAFOD Youth Wing, including training of trainers for sustainability.
From 26th to 29th April 2016, the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) organized a series of three training workshops at Esibayeni Lodge, in Mbabane, Swaziland, for the members of the Federation Organization of the Disabled People in Swaziland (FODSWA) as part of the “Building DPOs Capacity in Promoting an Inclusive Legislative Environment in Swaziland” project.
Funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), the project is focusing on capacity building of FODSWA, the official national affiliate of SAFOD in Swaziland, in promoting an Inclusive Legislative Environment in Swaziland. Some of the activities in the project include review of FODSWA Constitution and its Strategic Plan; conducting of the leaders and Directors Forum; training workshop on advocacy for FODSWA members; advocacy and lobbying sessions with Policy makers by FODSWA members.
The first full-day workshop on 26th April 2016 focused on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD); the second one-an-half days on 27th and 28th April 2016 focused on “Using Strategic Advocacy to Enhance Policy and Law Reforms”; whereas the third workshop 28th and 29th April 2016 was about the leadership, including reviews of the Constitution and Strategic Plan. All the workshops were facilitated by Mr. Waliuya Wamundila, from Disability Rights Watch (DRW).
In his opening speech, FODSWA President Mr. Mandla Methula said he was thankful to SAFOD for supporting the disability movement in the country in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, noting that the workshops were long overdue.
“I would like to urge you all members of the FODSWA present here to take these workshops seriously as it is opportunity for us to learn the skills and utilize them in our work. Most importantly, I would like to welcome Mr. Wamundila as our facilitator whom we know and trust that he has a lot of experience in these issues,’ he said.
Some of the key or deliverables of the projects include the development of a manual on “Advocacy and Lobbying on Inclusive Polices, legislation and Implementation of UNCRPD” which could be used as reference material for Persons with Disabilities when engaging with policy makers throughout the project; and the development of a Toolkit on the UNCRPD. Mr. Wamundila therefore used both the documents to facilitate the advocacy workshop and the UNCRPD workshop, respectively.
The project was conceived against the background that Swaziland is one of the countries that have made significant progress in addressing issues that pertain to Persons with Disabilities. The Kingdom of Swaziland ratified the UNCRPD in 2012. Subsequent to ratification of the UNCRPD, a National Policy on Disability was developed, aimed at promoting the mainstreaming of disability issues across all development programs of Government. The policy also seeks to implement the provision of the Constitution of Swaziland which recognizes and articulates the rights of Persons with Disabilities. The 2004 Swaziland Constitution provides protection for persons with disabilities and requires Parliament to enact relevant implementing legislation.
Despite this progress, Persons with Disabilities continue to be marginalized, discriminated against and socially excluded from mainstream activities. They have limited access to community services and opportunities available to non-disabled persons such as education, health, employment, public facilities including buildings and transport. Consequently, Persons with Disabilities tend to be overrepresented amongst the unemployed, the poor and the uneducated; this has far-reaching consequences to the disabled persons at individual, family and societal levels. There are no laws that mandate accessibility for persons with disabilities to buildings, transportation, or Government services.
The situation has further been compounded by the fact that there is a weak disability movement in Swaziland that can stand up and advocate for the rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly lobbying for appropriate legislation the implementation thereof, as well as the domestication of the UNCRPD on the part of Government. Most Disability Peoples Organizations (DPOs) do not have institutional capacity to sustainably carry out projects and programs aimed at advocating for a conducive legislative environment in the country.
Most crucially, the declining capacity of the Federation of the Federation Organization of the Disabled People in Swaziland (FODSWA), the only non-state entity established to coordinate, capacitate, and provide a unified voice or platform for the DPOs in Swaziland, has even worsened the situation further. In order to address some of the challenges, SAFOD and FODSWA are collaborating in undertaking capacity-building activities to support DPOs in advocating for the domestication of the UNCRPD and enactment of appropriate laws by December 2016.
This is on the basis that one of the mandates of FODSWA is actually to lobby Government, through its membership of DPOs nationwide, to implement existing pieces of national legislation and policies affecting Persons with Disabilities.
From 11th to 12th April 2016, the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) organized a training workshop at Holiday Inn, Johannesburg, South Africa, for its ECDE facilitators as part of the “Building DPOs’ Capacity in Promoting Inclusion in Early Childhood Development and Education within CBR Programs in Southern Africa” project.
Funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), the project is focused on promoting Inclusion in ECDE [Early Childhood Development and Education] within the CBR [Community-based Rehabilitation] programs in Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho and Zambia. One of the components of the ECDE project was the development of Standard Tools/Manual of Early Childhood Identification in Communities.
The workshop sought to train the ECDE facilitators representation SAFOD’s national affiliates from the four countries so that they become Trainers of Trainers when they go back into their communities. It also sought to validate the manual that had just been developed by SAFOD’s consultant, Mr. Wamundila Waliuya, which is being used throughout the implementation of the project, par6icualrly in conducting a series of community orientation/training sessions for caregivers, parents and other strategic community members by the trained DPOs’ representatives together with government instructors.
Speaking during at the beginning of the workshop, SAFOD Director General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, reiterated that there was a strong correlation between CBR and inclusive ECDE, yet nothing in this context had been done to link the two.
“As we all know, CBR has important component on Education, but the emphasis is has always been quality primary education, but not much at ECDE level. This should probably be the first project of this nature in Southern Africa, and as SAFOD we are proud to be associated with it,” he said.
He added that that the success of the project would ultimately motivate other DPOs as well other stakeholders to start putting ECDE for children with disabilities on the top of the education agenda that require consideration.
Among other things, the project sought to enhance early identification at community level for children with special needs through inclusive CBR interventions; to build the capacity of SAFOD’s affiliate DPOs already working in CBR programs to strategically link CBR and inclusive ECDE interventions within target communities; and to strengthen community support services for ECDE programs through CBR interventions that were inclusive of children with disabilities.
Besides the training of trainers (TOT) workshop, the full list key activities of the project included conducting a series of sensitization sessions of strategic community members on identification of disabilities and registration; developing standard tools of early childhood identification in communities; developing a manual on “ECDE and Disability” which would incorporate issues and guidelines of early identification and interventions in the context of children with disabilities; conducting a series of community orientation/training sessions for caregivers, parents and other strategic community members by the trained DPOs’ representatives together with government instructors; and develop tailor-made teaching and learning aids, mobility, and other accessories for children with special needs by target communities.
Some of the topics included in the manual that was presented and analyzed during the training were concepts of Inclusive Education and CBR; guidelines of early identification and interventions in the context of children with disabilities; methods for carrying out early identification and intervention; guidelines on community participation in the identification of children with disabilities; the role of CBR in enhancing access of children with disabilities into quality ECDE; entry processes of an ECDE into a CBR programme; and a number of case studies to enhance learning.
In his closing speech, Mr. Chiwaula commended the work that had been done by Mr. Waliuya in developing a very resourceful ECDE Manual that the ECDE trained facilitators would be using as the blueprint throughout the project.
Said Mr. Chiwaula: “As you can see therefore, you, the lucky facilitators of ECDE that have been selected and have gathered here, have a very important work to do from today until the close of the project. This training will definitely go a long way moulding you to become not only effective facilitators but also champions and advocates of quality education for learners with disabilities at all levels, including at ECDE levels.”
The Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), in collaboration with other three strategic partners, officially launched the Assistive Technology Information Mapping (AT-Info-Map) project at an event held on 19 April 2016 at Masa Hotel, Gaborone, Botswana.
Funded by the Google Impact Challenge as one of the ‘big ideas that will use technology to expand opportunity and independence for people with disabilities’, the AT-Info-Map is a 3 year project (2016-2019) that has the goal of mapping the availability of different types of assistive technology (AT) in 10 countries in Southern Africa.
The AT-Info-Map, which is being piloted in Botswana by SAFOD in partnership with the African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability (AfriNEAD), University of Washington, and Dimagi, has the goal of mapping the availability of different types of Assistive Technology (AT) in 10 countries in Southern Africa. Within each of the 10 SAFOD countries, national DPOs, government officials, AT providers, and local organizations that serve persons with disabilities are invited to participate in implementation.
Speaking during the launching ceremony, SAFOD Director General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, said the project was one of the most innovative initiatives as far as disability and inclusive development in general were concerned in Botswana and the entire Southern Africa.
In his speech which can be downloaded here, he said one thing that had always been clear right from the beginning was the fact that many persons with disabilities could hardly access AT, and that something needed to be done to address this gap, hence the project was timely as kit would seek to fill that yawning gap.
“Indeed, this project is going to be a game changer, as we believe it is going be a significant shift from the current manner of how we view and understand Assistive Technology,” he declared.
He added that SAFOD and its partners came to realize that one of the key factors contributing to lack of access to AT was simply lack of information about the availability of AT within the target countries. It was therefore in this context that they were starting At-Info-Map project that was going to develop a data system to capture, organize, and map the current availability of AT within the targeted countries.
He added: “We believe that this will create the baseline against which increased access can be measured. It will also bring to light the gap between availability and need. And understanding this gap has the potential to encourage key actors to increase access to AT.”
Chairperson of the Botswana Federation of the Disabled (BOFOD), Mr. Neiso Modise, stressed the success of the project in the region would very much depend on how Botswana would fare as a pilot country. He therefore called for unwavering support from the various stakeholders to ensure not only the success of the project, but also as a collective commitment towards inclusive development in the country.
“So I see this as an opportunity for our country to show that we really care about issues affecting persons with disabilities in particular, and inclusive development in general. And we can only show that care based on the level of support that all participants gathered here today, and those that have not made it here, are going to render to the project,” he appealed.
Mr. Modise, who is also member of the Regional Executive Council of SAFOD, re-echoed Mr. Chiwaula’s observation that the timeliness of the project. He noted that the project came at an opportune time when Botswana was just at the brink of putting in place a national Disability Policy, and at a time when the debate for the enactment of a disability law as well as the ratification of the United Nations Convection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) seemed to intensify.
“I am therefore positive that the rolling out of this project will, in a way, also affect this discourse and some of the challenges as well as positives related to Assistive technology to be unraveled by the project can be used to enrich these policies or pieces of legislation,” he said in a speech that can be downloaded here. Throughout the event, a number of PowerPoint presentations were made by representatives of SAFOD, University of Washington and AfriNEAD focusing on Project overview/description, AT overview, AfriNEAD introduction, and CommCare App overview. The presentations can be downloaded here!