Young People with Disabilities in Africa Challenge the Status Quo

In a lodge outside Nairobi, Kenya, 40 enthusiastic and bright young people with disabilities from 13 African countries came together last week to draft a constitution for a new organization they are forming, called the African Youth with Disabilities Network.

Among wheelchair users, sign language interpreters, and young people using various walking aides and other accommodations was 23-year-old student Seray Bangura from Sierra Leone, a country rebuilding after a devastating civil war. Seray is a coordinator for a disability advocacy group called Young Voices, a project of the UK-based Leonard Cheshire Disability charity. He is also in his final year of study at the Institute of Public Administration and Management in Freetown.

Seray is a member of the steering committee of the network, which was formed in May 2011 in response to a growing movement of young people with disabilities in Africa. Last week’s gathering kicked off with participants updating the group on progress made and challenges encountered in their home countries since they first met in May.

Seray noted some successes in Sierra Leone over past six months, achieved with the help of Young Voices, including the appointment of a young person with a disability to Sierra Leone’s National Youth Commission; regular radio talk shows focusing on disability issues and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the creation of films about accessibility, education, and nondiscrimination; and the development of a university grant program for all students with disabilities.

Seray also noted, however, that the fight for disability rights in Sierra Leone is far from over. The country is ranked 148 out of 169 countries on the UN Human Development Index, and conservative estimates suggest that disabled people make up at least 10 percent of the population in the post-conflict nation.  He lamented the lack of funding for disability issues in his country, and the fact that society still harbors negative perceptions of persons with disabilities. He also noted that implementation of the UNCRPD, which allows people with disabilities to fully realize their rights, is painfully slow.

Young people with disabilities in Africa continue to face enormous challenges. The meetings have allowed young people like Seray to gain new skills and learn about the process of creating a formal secretariat and establishing and managing a new, regionally, youth-focused disabled persons’ organization. Seray, along with others at the meeting, will continue their work to increase empowerment, mobilization, and coordination among disabled youth across Africa.

Both meetings were organized and hosted by the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, the Open Society Disability Rights Initiative, and the Youth Initiative.

24 Comments

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very interesting and well written. thanks and best regards - duncan

Thanks for sending this, Kim - I see the future of a pan-Africa Disability Rights Movement here, which is so exciting and so needed. Let us know how we can help!
Mariette Bates
Disability Studies Program
CUNY School of Professional Studies

Hi Mariette ,
We look forward working with you too.African youth with disability Network and CUNY can make a difference together.

A good initiative - I have been working with people with disabilities in Mozambique for over seven years and I'm sure if young people in Africa can organise themselves they can start to speed up the process of change that is necessary. Good luck to everyone involved

This is a great piece. I see a bright future ahead of the African Youth With Disability Network...

Together we can make a difference.Meaningful participation of youth with disabilities in key decision making processes is what we are working for.Thanks OSF and Kim.

Aniyamuzaala James
President of steering committee
African Youth with Disability Network.

many thanks-Kim. Rest assured that the future of PWDs will be changed with the efforts much put, emphasized and advocated for by this network of African Disability youth. together we need to do more to change the status quo in order to make this world disability accomodatory. thanks once again-Ronald from Uganda

looking forward to work with you.

I am a special educator in India and if required I am volunteer to work with U for this noble cause.

Thanks for the article, as an African, I was moved to read the story and my goal for next year is to srat an NGO in Nigeria for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilitities.

This is has been my dream since Childhood: that disabled people themselves become vanguard of change. I am a PWD moving around in a wheelchair currently based in Uganda. Please let me know where and how we can work together. I am currently a student pursuing a MA in Educational Planning, Economic, and International Development (MA EPEID) Institute of Education, London University in UK. I have a degree in Adult and Community Education (BACE)of Makerere University, and a Diploma in Community-Based Rehabilitation (DCBR) of Kyambogo University, Department of Community Disability Studies.

Hallo Ronald Kasuke, it is very great to hear that you widh to join this great network,
Uganda has a Chapter of the network (African Youth With Disabilities Network - Uganda Chapter) we have shown a great deal of confidence in reaching out to every Ugandan Youth With Disability and you are very welcome Please, join our social Network via Facebook by following this link. http://www.facebook.com/groups/aywdn.ug/
we will keep you updated!
Regards,

Eroku Simon
General Secretary
AYWDN-Uganda Chapter.

It was a great pleasure to be part of this initiative. Vladimir Cuk and I will always be with you. If there is anything we can do, please feel free to let us know. You all did a great job, now its important to keep the work moving forward.

We are thankful for the article. We, as a group of youth disabled refugees living in South Africa would like to partner with you in this noble cause. As disabled refugees we face unimaginable challenges. So, we took it upon ourselves to make a difference in our own lives. Our main objective is to become agents of change we believe in. Together we can improve our "world".




Godel Sefu

Director: Disabled Refugees Projects.

South Africa

Welcome AYDN,we at Action for Youth with Disabilities Uganda (AYDU) strongly welcome the formation of the African Youth with Disabilities Network. We believe that this initiative will play a great role in addressing the plight of youth with disabilities in Africa. AYDU is ready to partner with AYDN in championing this noble cause.




Aggrey Olweny

Executive Director

Action for Youth with Disabilities Uganda

Plot 2125 Bukoto Ntinda road (off Froebel stage

P.O.Box 5018, Kampala - Uganda

Tel: +256 414 599 864

Email: info@aydu.org

web: http://www.aydu.org

Hi Aggrey!
i would like to join and be part of AYDU in uganda.im an occupational therapist living in Ntinda and i have been working with people with disabilities in CBR and -institution settings of all ages.i have a keen interest in the youth!how do i go about it?
thanks for the work your doing!

i am so greatfull for what you are doing,i am living in nakuru Kenya and has faced several challenges,have started an organization helping persons with disability but the greatest challenge is where to mobilize resources,kindly advice and tell me organisations that can support me/us

Society of the Deaf & Sign Language Users has celebrated Bangla Sign 2012 in association with Disability Rights Fund and Actionaid Bangladesh for the first time in Bangladesh.

I have been an advocate for the disabled for eighteen years, especially the mentally challenged. I established an organization in Liberia to support non formal educational programs for the "specially challenged". Thanks to the youth for continuous awareness as my son is also a youth with challenges.

My thanks and appreciation to brother Seray and his colleagues. I call on you guys to stay focused as you work towards the establishment of the African Youth with Disabilities Network. It is a challenge but with all hands on deck it will surely happen. Go for it and count on Disability-Sierra Leone (DiSiL) as a partner in the struggle. Let me know if there is anything DiSiL can do to support your cause.

A powerful statement that we are now here, we are not making an apology for our arrival and we better be taken serious since a space for youth with disabilities MUST be found within the Mainstream Disability movement and the Youth development agenda in general in all of our African Nations and beyond.
We thank the OSF family for lending support to this emancipation drive.
Secretary General-AYWDN Steering Committee

I am greatly honored to know about this continental initiative. We believe that this initiative will play a great role in addressing the plight of youth with disabilities in Africa. AYDU is ready to partner with AYDN in championing this noble cause.

Aggrey Olweny
Executive Director
Action for Youth with Disabilities Uganda
Plot 2125 Bukoto Ntinda road (off Froebel stage
P.O.Box 5018, Kampala - Uganda
Tel: +256 414 599 864
Email: info@aydu.org
web: http://www.aydu.org

ADCCSU is greatly honoured to know about the formation of the African Youth with Disabilities Network. We at ADCCSU believe that a continental initiative has been missing to champion concerns of YWDs. We strongly expect AYWDN to address concerns of young parents with disabilities aware that we are many and facing numerous challenges. Our strong hope is that as we strive, AYWDN will contribute immensely in addressing the plight of young parents with disabilities in Africa regardless of disability category. ADCCSU is willing to work closely with you.

Kafeero Lyazi Vincent
Director
Action for Disabled People their Children Care takers and Spouses in Uganda
P.O.Box 34808, Kampala - Uganda
Tel:+256 414 692851
Email: adccsu4disability@gmail.com

Together we can make a difference. Meaningful participation of youth with disabilities in key decision making processes is what we are working for. Thanks. I'm coordinator of Initiative for refugees living with disability (IRD) in differents camps in Rwanda.

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