Her Excellency President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi announced the African Leadership Alliance on Intellectual Disabilities to engage African governments, disability, development and health organizations and other stakeholders to secure human rights and social services for people with intellectual disabilities, one of the most marginalized and overlooked groups on the planet.
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A New Africa Alliance
Lilongwe, Malawi –10 February 2014 –Her Excellency President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi announced the African Leadership Alliance on Intellectual Disabilities to engage African governments, disability, development and health organizations and other stakeholders to secure human rights and social services for people with intellectual disabilities, one of the most marginalized and overlooked groups on the planet.
People with disabilities, in particular those with intellectual disabilities, face discrimination, are often denied human rights and inclusion in their communities, and experience more poverty and worse outcomes in terms of health, education and employment, compared to the general population.
The African Leadership Alliance on Intellectual Disability was announced at the African Leaders Forum on Disability co-hosted in Lilongwe today by President Banda and Special Olympics. African senior government officials, representatives of the world’s top disability, development and health organizations, Special Olympics athletes and Board Chairman Timothy P. Shriver, sports celebrities, and private sector representatives gathered to formulate how to best challenge the huge discrimination and exclusion faced by people with disabilities, especially those with intellectual disabilities.
Broad Agreement on Priorities
President Banda said, “There is something about the plight that faces individuals with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, that is compounded by an entrenched stigma that has endured, unjustly, for centuries and centuries. Before we can tackle the environment barriers that block our children from school, before we can address the lack of training of doctors that block our children from hospital, before we can strengthen the social policies that streamline family services, this stigma must become yesterday’s news.”
There was broad agreement at the Forum on four priorities for advocacy and action: collecting sound data on people with intellectual disabilities and their lives; establishing specific, measurable and attainable goals concerning health, education, and inclusion; designing resource allocation models and targets to direct equitable shares of resources to those with intellectual disabilities; and securing broad multi-sectorial participation in these aims, through the African Leadership Alliance on Intellectual Disabilities.
"Africa Can Be a Leader"
Forum participants referred to the priorities and the creation of the Alliance as the “Lilongwe Declaration.” Mphatso Chiphwanya, a Special Olympics athlete since 2005 who sits on the Board of Special Olympics Malawi, said, “If I could say one thing to African leaders, it would be this: don’t leave the children behind. African children with intellectual disabilities are shunned and hidden. Bring them out, into the light of inclusion.”
Special Olympics Chairman Shriver added, “No region of the world is doing enough for people with intellectual disabilities. Africa, with its emphasis on community and its peoples’ deep understanding of discrimination and deprivation, can be a leader in ensuring human rights, social services and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.
President Banda conceived the African Leadership Alliance as a means for Africa to be at the forefront of the global movement for inclusion.” At the Forum, President Banda, Dr. Shriver, Peter Mazunda, Chairperson of Special Olympics Malawi, and Malawian Special Olympics athletes Innocent Chilongo, Mphatso Chiphwanya anChisomo Matenje signed a National Parternship Agreement between Special Olympics and the Republic of Malawi.
Forum Attracted African Leaders
The African Leaders Forum on Disability brought together senior government officials from eleven African countries and chief executives or senior representatives from organizations such as the African Development Bank, the African Union, Catholic Relief Services, the Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Lions Clubs International, UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank.
President Banda, leader of the small, democratic nation in Southeast Africa, has emerged as a champion for people with disabilities in Malawi. Special Olympics is a global organization and grassroots movement for sports, health, education and inclusion and is the largest organization in the world for people with intellectual disabilities.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports every day around the world. Through work in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics addresses inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver training and competition opportunities in 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 70,000 events throughout the year.
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