In 2017, FK Norway started a new project in collaboration with PODCAM and ZPHCA; Bulemazi “Building Leadership in Youth with Disabilities in Malawi and Zimbabwe”. The project is aiming at engaging youth to take leadership and work towards justice and inclusion for people with disabilities. A group of eight youth, one assistant and one sign interpreter travel in Malawi and Zimbabwe to secure the safety, inclusion and justice of people with disabilities in their societies. The FK participants have different varieties of disabilities themselves, but when they work together there is nothing they can’t handle.
The FK participants have already achieved great results. They give advice, counsel and teach about the importance of working towards better health and education opportunities through FK-projects, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The right to education applies to all children and youth in the world. The FK participants quickly discovered that several children did not have access to education as their school did not facilitate for people with disabilities. It was time for them to act. Through mobilisation of educational authorities, leaders in the local communities and parents, the FK participants managed to provide access to education and wheel chairs for people with disabilities.
Including the parents of children with disabilities as contact persons in school, have resulted in increased participation and contributes to the restructuring of rights for future pupils with disabilities. Information meetings have resulted in changes in attitudes towards people with disabilities among the population. With more inclusive societies, more children now go to school.
Old prejudices and myths leads to abuse of people with disabilities, such as rape and assaults. There are several examples of people with albinism that are persecuted, killed and mutilated due to superstition. An FK-participant that has been heavily involved in the decommission of these practices is Tiny Maruta (24). She has repeatedly experienced myths and misunderstandings surrounding disabilities. This leads to stigma, discrimination and lack of integration. Amongst others she has worked on a project that organises town-meetings to increase knowledge and that challenges negative attitudes towards people with albinism. Tiny is very proud to be part of this project. “The positive response we have received from local communities and local authorities are overwhelming. The police have also promised to provide penalty for those who execute hateful actions towards people with disabilities” she says.
An active and inclusive civil society function as an important corrective to the authorities and is prerequisite for democratic development. It is important to strengthen civil society as the driving force to achieve both national and international developing goals. The Bulemazi project is a great example of great resources societies will be missing, if certain groups are excluded from development issues. Often, other people are talking on behalf of people with disabilities. Through the Bulemazi-project, the youth speak for themselves. In this way, the youth show leadership skills and fight for their own justice, are breaking barriers and inspire others. Through the project, they have made positive change happen for themselves, individuals and societies in knowledge, attitudes and services. The project have resulted in more knowledge and experience that the FK participants can use in their future work to create more inclusive societies in their home countries, with support from the coordinating organisations in this project.