Children with disabilities face a myriad of challenges. For nine-year-old Roselyn, the troubles began when she was born. It was hard for her mother to come to terms with the fact that the child she had carried for nine months had a disability.
The mother was shocked, anxious, afraid, desperate and in denial. She hoped it was all just a dream.
She was uncomfortable to take Roselyn to public places and as she grew older, she could not even allow her to play with friends. Every time she went out, the girl was locked her up in the house.
Many children with disabilities face similar challenges, infringing on their rights to play with friends their age and develop skills.
At a consultative meeting of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities on Monday, members discussed ways of revising the Disability Act to ensure the rights of children with disabilities are not infringed upon.
Head of programmes for Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) Simon Munde observed that children with disabilities are disadvantaged and vulnerable.
“We want to ensure that their rights are promoted and protected. The current Disability Act has a number of areas that still need to be reviewed in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“For instance, we would like to see full implementation of inclusive education nationwide. Every child with a disability should be able to learn in a conventional classroom instead of going to special needs schools. We would also like to ensure that we have a database of all children with disabilities to make it easier to reach them,” he said.
Munde said different stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring the rights of these children are observed.
“The government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and parents have an obligation to ensure these rights are protected and promoted. We want our recommendations disseminated and captured by different players,” he says.
Representative of the Parents of Disabled Children Association of Malawi (Podcam) Sangwani Nyirenda stressed the need for children with disabilities to get inclusiveness in schools, hospitals and other services just like any other citizen of Malawi.
He stressed the importance of minimising challenges they face.
Among other organisations, Fedoma Youth Wing, Deaf/Blind Malawi, National Epilepsy Association and the Malawi National Association of the Deaf were represented at the consultative meeting.