- Rachel Kachaje, Former Minister of Disability and Elderly Affairs and Chairperson Disabled Women in Africa, Malawi and DPI Interim Chair
Ms. the French Minister for Disabled People and the Fight Against Exclusion,
Mr. the United Nations Special Envoy,
Ms. the Director-General of UNESCO,
Mr. the Director of Communication and Information Sector,
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It is an honor for me to share my ideas and experiences and even for those of my colleagues in the disability sector all over the world at this International Day of the Disabled Cerebration on the theme Inclusion matters: Access and empowerment for people with disabilities here in Paris where states from all over the world join their efforts to save the planet and build a sustainable world for future generations.
I have been asked to share my ideas and experiences in the subject of: INCLUSION MATTERS: ACCESS AND EMPOWERMENT FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. Why the theme Inclusion Matters? It means somebody has been excluded in the matters that affect their lives and in this case people with disabilities have been excluded since time immemorial and time to address or reverse the trend is NOW. When you talk of issues of access, it is a very broad subject as it addresses issues of infrastructure, access to information in accessible formats, transport systems and many others. Let me just give you few examples: a) Yesterday, my friend took me out just around here, we failed to enter few restaurants because they are not accessible, b) Most of the hotels here are not accessible, the organizer’s of this cerebration had some difficulties to find an accommodation for me, “Access and empowerment” they go hand in hand, and people with disabilities have been lobbying and advocating every day and I have come to realize that advocacy without empowerment is equal to nothing. When we talk of equalization of opportunities and we indeed want all people to be included and not left behind then an element of empowering that person has to be always there. he resources to overcome the barriers that oppose the expression of our capabilities or our voice, our lives gained over adversity show that development challenges is our focus, and that there are a lot of resources we do not suspect and a lot of alternative ways to contribute to the collective effort.
I must salute all governments in the world who have ratified the CRPD and have developed implementation plans to include, involve, engage and consult people with disabilities in all matters that affect their lives no matter the type of disability one may have. To enrich the world with our experience and expertise on our needs to facilitate the contribution according to his or her abilities, there is need to make the community accessible, a society easier to understand, safer and peaceful for all. This is the empowerment that people with different abilities need and want to contribute even to the implementation of the SDGs.
The Convention clearly recognizes participation in political and public life not only as an objective in itself, but also as a pre-requisite for the enjoyment of other rights. In particular, through consultation in relation to law and policy reform and monitoring of the Convention, persons with disabilities can influence the decisions that affect all other rights, and not only their particular rights, if there are any particular ones, but the rights of all citizens that have or will have to learn how to live with reduction or a transformation of their abilities. That is why I was appointed Minister of Disability and Elderly affairs in my country Malawi.
As we are cerebrating the International Day of the Disabled today which falls on 3rd December every day, it is very important to seriously think of starting to include people with disabilities in all development agenda. The world cannot afford to have unproductive citizens in their countries just because they are excluded based on their disability. People with disability have a precious resource that needs to be embraced, recognized and respected everywhere and at all times.
The publication by the European Commission on the European Accessibility Act is great potential to bring positive change. The European Disability Forum and its members have worked hard to express recommendations and the disability movement is happy to see that their contributions have been introduced in the final document and will work together with the EU institutions, partner organizations and other stakeholders to make this piece of legislation meaningful for 80 million people with disabilities in Europe, and a gain of comfort for the 743 million European citizens. This is the result of empowering people with disabilities; they need to be their own spokes persons.
In Africa, women have a central role for the development … and women with disabilities have the twin roles to lead the family life and to raise awareness on sustainability. Disabled Women in Africa (DIWA) is doing great work in empowering women and girls with disabilities, we have seen some women becoming senators, others are members of parliament, others Ministers, and many are in decision making positions. Some women have been able to speak out on issues of exploitation, violence and abuse; some girls are now able to go to school.
These positive results must be recognized, encouraged and respected everywhere, first by encouraging and supporting the participation of people with disabilities at all levels, and not only contained in a consultative role, but also considered as one of the pillars of sustainable development. Our voices don’t make the law, but without our contributions and expertise the law misses its targets.
For this theme to become a reality and not a talk show today is the time to start working together on an equal basis and to look on how people with disabilities can be considered and recognize their experiences as valuable assets to contribute to a better world for all and learn the best ways to share the knowledge that comes from their lives.
Our voice is both diverse unique and essential for building a better world tomorrow, breaking barriers, promoting human rights, not only for people with disabilities, BUT FOR ALL.