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Zambia: MPs pledge action on rights of disabled

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA 19 August 2009 - Members of influential parliamentary committees in Zambia have pledged to ensure full rights of people living with disabilities. They aim to achieve this through advocacy at all levels, and by pressing for the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). 

In the outcome statement following an intensive UN workshop on disability equality training held recently in Chisamba, 18 members of Zambia’s parliament (MPs) have agreed to:

  • work towards raising awareness of disability equality among all parliamentarians;
  • move a private member’s motion in parliament to sensitise MPs, the executive branch and society as a whole on the rights of the disabled;
  • move motions in local councils to sensitise people in their constituencies;
  • persuade Government to ratify the UNCRPD;
  • do their best as parliamentarians to sensitise the rights of people with living with disabilities whenever called upon to speak in public.

The MPs further agreed to organise a one-day seminar for all parliamentarians on the topic of disability equality.  “This will be a unique event.  No other such activity involving parliament in the vital topic of disability equality is known to have taken place in any country worldwide,” said Ian Plaskett, UNICEF Zambia’s Child Rights Officer.

According to the UN, up to 1 million people live with disabilities in Zambia, which make up at least 20% of people living in poverty.  “Neither the Millennium Development Goals nor the full potential of the country can be achieved without a more concerted effort to ensure that people with disabilities are enabled to contribute fully to the life of the nation,” said Plaskett.

Speaking at the workshop, Honourable Jean Kapata, Chair of the Parliamentary Caucus on Children, said that in the past “disabled people’s rights had not been given the attention they deserved” and that in future “rights must be upheld and protected, and taken seriously in the Zambian parliament.”

Gerry Finnegan, International Labour Organization Representative for Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, stated that “opportunities for decent work for people with disabilities must be promoted through greater access to education and skills training, and through open employment and self-employment.”

Elspeth Erickson, UNICEF Zambia’s Deputy Representative, stressed that “society must adapt to ensure that all children, irrespective of gender and disability, can enjoy the human rights that are inherent to their human dignity, without discrimination of any kind.”

Other speakers at the workshop stressed the need for Zambia to move to ratify the UNCRPD.  Ratified by 63 countries to date, the UNCRPD sets human rights standards for people with disabilities throughout the world.  Zambia signed the convention in 2008, signaling that the country is beginning the process of developing and carrying out the policies, laws and administrative measures necessary for ensuring world-class promotion of disabled people’s rights.

In 1996, Zambia enacted the Persons with Disabilities Act, which provides for the elimination of all forms of discrimination on the grounds of disability.  Zambia’s Fifth National Development Plan also demonstrates the nation’s commitment to addressing the barriers which prevent Zambians with disabilities from participating fully in the economic and social development of the country.  At the workshop, however, MPs agreed that despite all these efforts a great deal still remains to be done to achieve these aims.

The workshop was organised with the support of the ILO-Irish Aid Partnership Programme, in partnership with UNICEF.


About ILO:
The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to advancing opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Its main aims are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue in handling work-related issues. In promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, the organization continues to pursue its founding mission that labour peace is essential to prosperity. Today, the ILO helps advance the creation of decent jobs and the kinds of economic and working conditions that give working people and business people a stake in lasting peace, prosperity and progress.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Patrick Slavin, Chief, Communications, UNICEF Zambia
Tel +260-211-252055,
E-mail: pslavin@unicef.org

Betty C. Nalungwe, Senior Communications Assistant, UNICEF Zambia
Tel + 260-211 252055,
E-mail: bcnalungwe@unicef.org




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