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The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day of Persons with Disabilities for 2016.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is commemorated every year on 3 December since 1992 to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the protection of the dignity, rights and well-being of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) through increased inclusion in political, social, economic and cultural life. The theme for, this year is “Achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the Future We Want”. The focus of the commemorations this year is on assessing the current status of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted  by the United Nations in September 2015 to ensure a more inclusive and equitable world for PWDs.

Zimbabwe is State Party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sections 22 and 83 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe affirm PWDs as rights holders rather than recipients of charity. The Constitution obligates the State and all State institutions to put in place measures to ensure PWDs achieve their full potential and are prioritized in development programmes and plans so that they become self- reliant. This gives a framework for the mainstreaming of economic rights of PWDs for eradication of poverty in all its forms (SDG 1) and ending hunger and achieving food security (SDG 2) as PWDs are among those who are most affected by poverty.

Sustainable Development Goal number 4 speaks to the importance of inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities as prerequisites for sustainable development. Failure to access and complete education compounds poverty among PWDs. The National Survey on Disability and Health (2015) highlighted that only 2% of the 900 000 registered PWDs can access schools in Zimbabwe, many conventional schools were not built with PWDs in mind and only a few teachers are trained to fully cater for Children with Disabilities (CWDs). CWDs continue to suffer stigmatization in its various forms. There is also lack of adequate special education facilities, including sign language and braille educational materials.

Sections 83 (b) and (d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for participation of PWDs in social, creative, or recreational activities and access to medical, psychological and functional treatment which resonates with SDG 3 (on healthy lives and well – being).  However, the ZHRC notes that medical supplies are on the decline thereby complicating the lives of PWDs. Furthermore, access to health facilities and services remains limited for PWDs, for example, application for Assisted Medical Treatment Orders is bureaucratic and therefore cumbersome for them. Other challenges relate to provision of therapy facilities and creams (for those with albinism). The ZHRC calls for due consideration of all PWDs in the provision of health services and facilities taking into account their diverse needs.

The ZHRC calls on the government to expedite alignment of laws that have a bearing on disability with the Constitution and CRPD and adoption of the Disability Policy to facilitate more effective mainstreaming of the rights of PWDs in development programmes in line with the SDGs.  These include the Social Welfare Act (Chapter 17.06), Children’s Act (Chapter 5.06) and the State Service (Disability Benefits) Act, (Chapter 16:05) Government and development partners are urged to lay a firm foundation for the increased participation of PWDs in critical sectors such as employment, health, economy and education.

The ZHRC pledges to work with Government and all other stakeholders in the protection, promotion and enforcement of the human rights of PWDs in accordance with its constitutional mandate. In that regard, the ZHRC has operationalized the Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Special Interest Groups to give specialised attention to the rights PWDs, among other vulnerable groups.

ZHRC Offices

Northern Region Office and Head Office

144 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare

Tel +263 4 2934102/3 or 251077/079/085 or 705268/426

Website: www.zhrc.org.zw

ZHRC Press Statement on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities – 3 December 2016