Promoting inclusivity in all aspects of life: Perspectives from Zambia
Response Network Zambia is a registered NGO operating in three districts of Southern Zambia for the past 15 years. The organisation’s philosophy is self-help facilitation. Through this strategy, the organisation motivates people to start self-help activities using locally available resources, without dependence on hand outs. The target beneficiaries are women, children and persons with disabilities, them being marginalised in predominantly patriarchal rural communities.
To promote inclusiveness, the organisation has an inclusive policy both at place of work and in the implementation target communities. This means the organisation is non-discriminatory, with regards to disability. We also encourage inclusive participation of persons with disabilities in community decision-making, community education and sports activities. We have had a fully fledged disability inclusive programme in rural communities from 2016 to 2019.
We have found much success in using self-help equipment, made from locally available materials within the community.
We have strongly advocated for the implementation of inclusive policies that have been put in place by the government. We have coupled this with extensive sensitisation on the importance of including persons with disabilities, through local language literature and radio programs in the form of sketches and plays/dramas.
We have also trained a community of paralegals to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities, so that they can assert their rights when they are infringed upon.
Some challenges that we have faced include:
- Lack of inclusive, accessible and user-friendly sport facilities
- Lack of extensive knowledge and information on sport and disability, especially in rural communities since they are our focus areas
- Stigma, cultural and traditional mysteries surrounding causes of disability
In order to combat these challenges, we would like to see the following resources and information developed:
- Inclusive, safe and accessible sporting facilities
- Literature addressing different kinds of disability
- Adaptive and domestic sporting equipment for persons with disabilities
- Capacity building of people working with disabilities
Sports for development organisations are doing a very good job, though more support is needed from the government and other stakeholders to reach out to a larger number of persons living with disabilities. A wider network can be achieved through strengthened synergies. In the future, we hope to see increased allocation of national budgets to programmes and activities that promote inclusive sport.
While the current policies are good, there are no enforcement mechanisms by the government to ensure that policies are implemented. In order for the government and sports federations to be effective, there needs to be a deliberation process to reward and incentivise those organisations and institutions that are inclusive.
Joshua Paliso is an 18-year-old visually impaired young man who also has an intellectual disability. He has 5 sisters and is the last born and only male in the family. Due to his disability, his family did not think there would be much he could achieve in his life, and hence did not pay him much attention.
He studies at St. Mulumba Special School for the blind in Choma, Southern Zambia. He was identified by the school as a very good athlete after engaging him in sports activities and he exhibited much interest in athletics.
He was among the 8 athletes from Zambia that travelled to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics World Games in 2019. During the Special Olympics games, he won a gold medal in the 100 metres race. Joshua was very excited to go back home and how his parents his first achievement in his life.
This experience changed Joshua’s life, as well as his family’s perception on disability. His self-esteem and confidence has improved, and now he motivates his friends who are living with different disabilities so that they can make it, just as he did.
He comes from a very vulnerable family, who struggle with basic food security challenges, compromising his health and nutrition. Due to his involvement in sports, many well-wishers have, once in a while, come to the aid of his family, while others support him with his educational needs, though this support is not consistent.
Due to his continued good performance and resilience, he was selected to participate in the Pan-African Special Olympic Games, held in January 2020 in Egypt.
Evelyn Kazoka is a special education teacher at Mujala primary school, Livingstone, Zambia. She is currently pursuin a master’s degree in special education. She has also worked for Cheshire Homes in Livingstone as a special education instructor.
[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]