DPOs key in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities

Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (DPOs) are critical in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs) and are a voice for the diverse categories and groups of PWDs.

Delegates who attended a consultative meeting held recently at the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa echoed these sentiments and called for the effective and meaningful participation of DPOs in Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the meeting that was held under the theme, “Towards the effective and meaningful participation of Persons with Disabilities in Zimbabwe,” UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Maria do Valle Ribeiro said DPOs play important roles in ensuring that PWDs were not left behind in all development processes.

She added that DPOs were also important in holding duty bearers accountable and raising awareness of the rights of PWDS.

The consultative meeting was organized by implementing agencies under the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) Project and the two umbrella organizations for Disability in Zimbabwe, the National Association of Societies for The Care of Handicapped (NASCOH) and the Federation of Organizations of Disabled People in Zimbabwe (FODPZ). It coincided with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) delegation’s visit to Zimbabwe to witness implementation of the UNPRPD Project at country level.

The engagement brought together 72 participants from various DPOs, Disability Services Organisations (DSOs), line Ministries linked to the project, National Human Rights Institutions, academia and high-level government officials. UNPRPD Focal Point for Zimbabwe, Ms Natalia Mattioli participated from New York, through Skype.

Findings of an informal survey on the Role and Capacities of DPOS conducted by UNESCO and implementing agencies under the UNPRPD Project in collaboration with NASCOH and FODPZ, opened up discussions around disability rights, inclusion and work of DPOs in the country as well as areas of collaboration with the UN. Participants commended efforts made to establish knowledge on the operational environment for DPOs in Zimbabwe. It was requested that further research be undertaken, to build on the survey and refine the findings for future programming purposes.

The following key contributions were made by organisations present at the meeting:

Meaningful engagement of DPOs in decision-making and leadership areas is key to ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are promoted at all levels.
Increased networking and coalition building is necessary to better co-ordinate and provide more effective services for PWDs
Information sharing and engagement of the media is crucial in promoting visibility and awareness on the work being done by DPOs in Zimbabwe
The UNPRPD Project in Zimbabwe, remains a key initiative in promoting and advancing the rights of persons with disabilities in the country.