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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Parliamentary Caucus on people living with disabilities launched

Story by ZBC Reporter

The launch of the Parliamentary Caucus on People Living with Disabilities took place at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Harare, with members of Parliament and other esteemed guests including advocates, in attendance.

In his address, the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Advocate Jacob Mudenda, emphasised the importance of championing the rights and freedoms of persons living with disabilities in Zimbabwe.

“As representatives of the people, it is your solemn responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure that the voices and needs of all citizens, including those living with disabilities, are heard and addressed positively. For that reason, this Caucus should be more than just a group of like-minded parliamentarians.

“Like other caucuses, it has to be a powerful force for mindset change, a beacon of hope for the millions of people living with disabilities in our country. Through this parliamentary lobby and advocacy collective, the opportunity should arise to amplify the perspectives and experiences of this often-marginalized community so that it can abundantly actualize its aspirations in all sectors of our economy without any apology at all. In addition to serving as a watchdog and monitoring the effectiveness of existing laws and policies related to disability rights, this Caucus is enjoined to work with Select Committees to hold the government accountable for its commitments and actions regarding the needs of people living with disabilities. Such a cross-cutting approach guarantees the multidimensional tackling of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities wholesomely,” he noted.

He said the establishment of the voluntary caucus symbolised a commitment to inclusivity and equity, ensuring that no one and no place would be left behind.

“This is an epochal and pivotal moment in our parliament’s history,” he said.

The collaboration between the Caucus and Deaf Trust Zimbabwe was hailed as a beacon of hope for the marginalised community of people living with disabilities.

Through a Steering Committee and Working Group, the Caucus aimed to advocate for legislation on disability mainstreaming, champion matters affecting persons with disabilities, and promote effective participation and empowerment.

The Speaker highlighted the constitutional provisions recognising the rights of persons with disabilities, he underscored the government’s commitment to upholding these rights in alignment with international standards.

“This holistic constitutional injunction must spur this Caucus towards making concerted efforts to work with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare through the attendant Portfolio Committee in robustly coming up with mitigatory measures to ameliorate the plight of persons living with disabilities.

“In that vein, do not compete with the Portfolio Committee but complement it. More emphatically, section 22(3) of the Constitution enjoins the State to take care of persons living with disabilities in terms of their welfare, work programmes, their welfare requirements, communication and quality of life. That section of the Constitution eloquently urges the State to: “(a) develop programmes for the welfare of persons with physical or mental disabilities, especially work programmes consistent with their capabilities and acceptable to them or their legal representatives; (b) consider the specific requirements of persons with all forms of disability as one of the priorities in development plans (such as the National Development Strategy1); (c) encourage the use and development of forms of communication suitable for persons with physical or mental disabilities; and (d) foster social organizations aimed at improving the quality of life of persons with all forms of disability.”

“Affirming the above provisions, Section 83 of the Constitution further asserts that the State should take appropriate measures to ensure that persons living with disabilities realize their full mental and physical potential. To further facilitate this realization, all forms of discrimination, including all those based on the grounds of disability, are prohibited under section 56(1) of the Constitution which provides that:
“All persons are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of law.”

He added, “In the same vein, their employment opportunities are guaranteed through the provisions of section 65 of the Constitution which protects their right to fair and safe labor practices. Furthermore, section 67 of the Constitution guarantees the political rights of citizens, including the right to vote, which must be accessible also to persons living with disabilities. Additionally, sections 75 and 76 of the Constitution guarantee the right to education and healthcare respectively both of which must be accessible and inclusive of persons living with disabilities. It is in this broad context as outlined by these constitutional provisions that the Caucus for persons living with disabilities in Parliament is a cardinal endeavour in ensuring that these rights are upheld and translated into tangible programmes of action to improve the lives of Zimbabweans living with disabilities.”

“The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the pending Persons with Disabilities Bill demonstrated a shift towards a rights-based approach to disability legislation,” said Hon Mudenda.

He urged society to shatter stereotypes and provide equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities to flourish in various fields, from healthcare to education to employment.

The launch of the Parliamentary Caucus marked a significant step towards ensuring that the voices and needs of people living with disabilities were heard and addressed positively.

The launch of the Caucus was not just a symbolic gesture; it was a concrete step towards a more just and equitable society, where every individual, regardless of ability, has the chance to reach their full potential.

“The journey towards inclusivity has begun, and the voices of persons living with disabilities will no longer be silenced. Together, they will forge a path towards a future where diversity is embraced, barriers are broken, and the light of equality shines brightly for all to see,” said Hon Mudenda.

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