The Post Newspapers Zambia
By Chola Kafwabulula on Sunday 10 January 2010, 04:00:00 CAT (1153 Reads)
The Government of the Republic of Zambia has finally ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) having signed it in May 2008.
The Convention marks the dawn of a new era in the long history and fight for the emancipation of persons with disabilities the world over. The Convention is the first human rights treaty of the twenty-first century adopted by the United Nations on 13th December 2006.
The document addresses key issues such as mobility, accessibility, education, employment, rehabilitation, participation in political life, equality, non discrimination and the rights of disabled children.
It is correct to argue that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a perfect worked world protects everyone. But in practice, certain groups such as women and children may not be adequately protected. In similar fashion, the 650 million people in the world living with disabilities still remain vulnerable marginalised, wretched and discriminated against.
We disabled persons still suffer under the york of able bodied persons. We encounter a myriad of physical and social obstacles, which the Convention hopes to help overcome.
The world view is that Persons with Disabilities require societal protection and evoke sympathy rather than respect.
The Convention is a major step toward changing the perception of disability and ensures that societies recognize that all people must be provided with the opportunities to live life to their fullest potential, whatever that may be.
The Zambian Government has now ratified the Convention. By ratifying a Convention, and after the treaty comes into force, a country accepts its legal obligations under that treaty or and will adopt implementing legislation.
The author is alive to the fact that instruments of ratification have to be deposited in New York at the United Nations Secretariat to complete the process of ratification.
This Convention is indeed the dawn of a new era because it marks a shift in thinking about disability from a Social Welfare Concern, to a human rights issue, which acknowledges the societal barriers and prejudices which are in essence disabling themselves.
The Convention is now binding on the Republic of Zambia because Zambia has ratified it. Initially, in May 2008, the government had only signed the Convention, but only indicates support for the principles of the Convention and the country’s intention to ratify it.
It is worth noting however that although the government has now ratified the Convention, unless and until government begins to go by the tenets and principles of the Convention, disabled people in Zambia are far from emancipation. The Convention will not even be worth the paper it is written on, if it is not translated into practical and workable deliverables.
There should be political will to ensure that persons with disabilities in Zambia are able to have a good education, good housing, access to good health and in a world, included in the attainment of all opportunities that the country is able to offer. Persons with disabilities will continue to remain in dire poverty, disease and wretched, if this is not done.
Zambia does not seem to have a very good history in the way it treats us persons with disabilities. It is common knowledge that 44 years after independence, we can not parade one disabled person in any high decision position. We have no single disabled Member of Parliament, no one in senior government position, no one in senior parastatal office and yet all we see are women being appointed daily.
The appointing authorities have the prerogative as to who they should appoint but I am not sure that the world is complete without persons with disabilities. It is equally wrong that persons with disabilities should only be thought of when politicians are seeking their votes.
Appointing persons with disabilities into leadership positions has the advantage of ensuring that disability issues will be properly articulated by those directly affected and also that disability will be mainstreamed into all developmental programmes. This will also reduce the marginalisation and the frustration currently faced by persons with disabilities. It will also bring pride to persons with disabilities once they discover, that they too can contribute to national development as opposed to being beggars and being perceived as a charity case.
It is annoying that in the modern world when most countries in the world are finding all the good reasons to include persons with disabilities in national government, we in Zambia continue to treat persons with disabilities as the scum of the earth.
What is even more annoying is that fact that disability is not a contentious subject. It is not and should not be a threat to anyone. You can get disabled at any stage in your life because disability is no respecter of person or office. Whatever your title and status, be ye warned that you need not apply to become disabled. At the end of the day its mother nature that selects the candidates of disability and the cut off point is open!
Today most countries in the world view inclusion of disability in all national programmes as a noble thing and observance of human rights by having inclusive societies when persons with disabilities are given not only equal opportunities with able bodies persons but deliberate policies and legislations are drafted which empower citizens with disabilities.
It is also viewed as a good Curriculum Viate (CV) and a good reputation to have government which has disabled people running important offices and institution. Alas, we in Zambia verily believe that persons with disabilities should be beggars and pushed into the background. Shame on us that each time persons with disabilities have raised their voices to demand for their rights, some among us feel persons with disabilities are being difficult. When the youth, women, those with HIV/AIDS, so the same, they are easily listened to and immediately policies are rushed to ensure their inclusion in mainstream society.
Disabled persons have every good reason to be disgruntled, not because of their disabilities, but because of the way society consistently continue to ill treat them.
What we find disabling as persons with disabilities is not our disabilities but the obstacles that our own societies continue to place in our lives. As the saying goes, “we are disabled because we live in a disabled society”.
So even with the ratification of the United Nations Convention, the government should be alive to the rights of persons with disabilities. The ratification of the Convention is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
We implore the government therefore to seriously begin to look into the plight of persons with disabilities from a different perspective. This is to say, that persons with disabilities should be included in the running of this country and ensuring that they too are given equal opportunities for self actualisation and that deliberate policies and pronouncements be made to support and empower persons with disabilities.
An appeal is therefore being tabled before our government, that whilst 2009 has ended on a very good note for persons with disabilities, the government should now ensure that persons with disabilities are included in national development. Other countries have shown us that once included into governance, persons with disabilities are able to perform just as good as their able bodied counter-parts and in some cases even better.
Source information came from www.postzambia.com