UNICEF Zimbabwe convened a meeting with organizations representing, serving and advocating for persons living with Disabilities on the 12th of October 2017. The agenda of the held at UNICEF Zimbabwe premises’ was to get the organizations’ stakeholders talking about issues they grapple with on a daily basis. “Dialogue on Disability: Towards an inclusive UNICEF strategy on Disability”, read the theme of the day. The participant organizations were National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH), Federation of Organization of Disabled People in Zimbabwe (FODPZ), Danhiko, Zimcare - Chengetai Primary School and Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health.
UNICEF Zimbabwe Deputy Representative Dr Jane Muita revealed that the dialogue was a platform meant to afford stakeholders an opportunity to speak out on barriers persons living with disabilities are facing and, help UNICEF Zimbabwe mainstream Disability sensitive issues in programming. “If you keep your heads down no one hears it and therefore allocation of resources, programming, and strategy is all out of the window,” explained Dr Muita.
She further revealed that it is also the mandate of the United Nations to amplify grievances of underserved sectors of the society. “We have brought you together because among yourselves you need to give your voices. We as the United Nations will help you project your voices,” she added.
The forum also aimed at building Disability sensitive capacity in the areas of Education, Child protection and Social Services, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Sexual Reproductive Health, HIV and AIDS, policy, livelihoods and financial inclusion and, nutrition where persons with Disability are lagging behind in current policy framework. Participants were placed into groups of the highlighted areas to identify and, prescribe solutions that are item specific. “Dialogue is critical as persons with Disability are still marginalised. Even in the New Curriculum they will continue to suffer stigma and neglect,” Tendai Mayuni, Programmes Manager, Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health, explained.
Munyani commended UNICEF for spearheading this important stakeholder engagement meeting and is hopeful the dialogue yields positive results. “We are grateful for what UNICEF has done to accord us an opportunity to have a dialogue. We hope the outcome will translate into more inclusive, operational and relevant policy framework,” Manyuni added gratefully.
Societal myths surrounding persons living with Disability was one of the top priorities the plenary highlighted as a barrier to accessing health services. The deliberations will go a long way in helping UNICEF draft an inclusive strategy on Disability.