The Australian High Commission (in Pretoria) together with 17 Australia Awards alumni and other stakeholders, celebrated International Day of People with Disabilities with an advocacy workshop.
The workshop was an opportunity to share and celebrate the successes and challenges, faced by people with disabilities, highlight their advocacy and explore new ideas for support and inclusion. Australia Awards also shared the significant strides that have been made for disability inclusion, over the last few years.
In her opening remarks, the Deputy Head of Mission, Sonya Koppe, highlighted the commitment by the Australian government on disability-inclusive development. ‘The Australian Government is committed to playing a leadership role internationally in disability-inclusive development, to enable people with disabilities in developing countries to find pathways out of poverty and realise their rights and full potential,’ she said.
Panel and group discussions provided an interactive and engaging platform for both alumni and stakeholders from government and non-government organisations who are active in the disability advocacy fraternity. Three panelists, two Australia Awards alumni Melina Amedee, Speech Pathologist and Disability Advocate at Seychelles Hospital, Mayeso Kanyowile from the Malawi Human Rights Commission and Hedley Lewis, Executive Director of the Smile Foundation took part.
The group discussions reiterated the need for a more collaborative effort from all stakeholders from grassroots to the top level – which concentrated on future accessibility, consistent advocacy efforts and at the prioritisation of disability inclusion in technology, infrastructure, education, and economic and social spheres. There was a strong feeling that advocacy is not only about policy changes, but also about following a strategic approach and forming a core voice collectively. To achieve this, role players should understand the facts and influence the mindsets and behaviours of the public through education and communication campaigns with other partners.
‘We must repeat the same message over and over until understanding occurs. We must keep knocking at the same door with perseverance’ asserted Melina Amedee. At the end of the day, alumni agreed that advocacy is a long journey made shorter, when allies joined them