The Disability Rights Unit Clinic, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, hosted a Zoom webinar to call for the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa (African Disability Protocol).
The webinar aimed to raise awareness of the Africa Disability Protocol and contextualise the realities of persons with disabilities in Africa. The webinar highlighted the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in encouraging African states to ratify the Africa Disability Protocol.
Giving the welcome remarks during the webinar, Mr Wilson Macharia, a tutor and post-doctoral candidate at the Centre for Human Rights, highlighted the positive developments in signing and ratifying the Africa Disability Protocol. Mr Macharia went on to discuss the relevance of this webinar as there is a need for wider sensitisation of the protocol as it requires 15 ratifications to enter into force. The webinar provided a platform to engage in dialogue about advocacy strategies for CSOs and relevant stakeholders to use to push for the ratification of the Africa Disability Protocol.
Mr Paul Juma, a post-doctoral candidate at the Centre for Human Rights presented an introduction to the Africa Disability Protocol and discusses the necessity of an Africa-specific instrument. Mr Juma went on to highlight how the Africa Disability Protocol does not only outline the rights in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) but is also extended to include customary forms of justice and referred to examples such as article x on enforcing minimum job quotas and article 11, a provision against harmful practices.
Thereafter, Mr Netshituni from the South African Disability Alliance spoke on the intersectional identities of persons with disabilities, particularly within the African context. Notably, Mr Netshituni navigated the attendees around the appropriate terminology to use when addressing different groups of persons with disabilities and further outlined how the different socio-economic realities experienced by persons with disabilities further exacerbate the inequalities faced by different groups of persons with disabilities.
To contexualise the application and enforcement of the African Disability Protocol, Ms Sally Nduta, the President of the Kenyan Disability Alliance, outlined the steps taken by Kenyan CSOs to push for the ratification of the Protocol as well as the domestic enforcement mechanisms adopted by Kenya to ensure the full realisation and application of the African Disability Protocol. Public participation, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and state accountability were outlined as the three main mechanisms used to ensure the application of the Protocol, all the while ensuring the full participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities at every step.
Following the discussion of the foundation and purpose of the African Disability Protocol, Griet van de Voorde and Shitaye Astawes from the Africa Disability Forum raised a call to action on the ratification of the Protocol on a continental level. The three takeaways from this discussion were to continue raising awareness, increase engagement with member states and ensure that CSOs are well equipped with the technical and logistical support needed.
In the same context, Anna Shiri from the National Council of Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe concluded the webinar by emphasising the importance of collaborative efforts from CSOs and states in furthering the objectives of the African Disability Protocol. Ms Shiri further touched on the importance of observing and monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of policies and emphasised the importance of non-legal measures such as developing social solidarity through the use of media and the internet.
The attendees were then given the opportunity to raise questions to the panellists on contemporary and logistical issues in ratifying the Protocol. This fostered further discourse on the obstacles faced in ratifying the Protocol and gave perspective to the lived experiences of persons with disabilities in different regions. Some of the suggestions raised reinforced the objectives of the webinar - which is to sensitise different stakeholders on the importance of ratifying an African-specific instrument to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
The webinar was attended by Civil Society Organisations, disability rights activists and academics from all over Africa. This event forms part of the Disability Rights Unit advocacy campaign on the ratification of the Africa Disability Protocol.
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