UN Zimbabwe exhibits at the National Disability Expo 2021

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa joined other United Nations Agencies in Zimbabwe to participate at the just ended National Disability Expo that was held under the theme, ‘’Disability Mainstreaming and Inclusion for a Prosperous and Empowered Society which Leaves No One Behind’’. The Expo is an annual event organized by the Government of Zimbabwe, through the of the Office of the Adviser to the President and Cabinet on Disability Issues, with technical support from the United Nations and other key stakeholders in the disability fraternity.

The Expo which ran from the 11th to the 13th of October 2021 in Gweru, created a platform for the Government of Zimbabwe, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), persons with disabilities, the UN and other stakeholders to exhibit products, technologies, crafts, services and talents from the disability sector, and also enabled sensitization and discussions around the recently launched National Disability Policy, the inclusion of persons with disabilities in national development processes and more importantly the promotion of disability rights.

Officially launching the Expo, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa reiterated his Government’s commitment to address the barriers faced by persons with disabilities and ensuring that no one is left behind as the country moves towards the national vision 2030. He applauded exhibitors for the quality of products, services and crafts, and recommended for the development of a fund that assists persons with disabilities to produce more products and services.

Speaking on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Magdelina Madibela (the Gender and Disability Coordination Advisor in the RCO) congratulated the Government and partners for organizing a successful, engaging and informative National Disability Expo. She reiterated the commitment of the UN in partnering with the Government of Zimbabwe, OPDs and national stakeholders to eradicate poverty in all its forms, end discrimination and exclusion, and reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities that leave persons with disabilities behind and undermine their potential.

The United Nations participated at the expo, showcasing some of the knowledge products, services, programmes, results achieved and planned interventions around disability and disability rights. While exhibiting as “one”, a special focus was rendered on 2 of the main joint programmes that have specifically targeted and mainstreamed intervention on disability, namely the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) project on advancing the rights of women and girls with disabilities and the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative in Zimbabwe.

Represented by UNESCO, UNDP and WHO at the Expo, several UNPRPD and Spotlight Initiative knowledge products produced by UNICEF, UNFPA, UNESCO and UNDP were exhibited and disseminated to duty bearers, OPDs, women and girls with disabilities and local stakeholders. Some of the knowledge products disseminated include Impact Assessment of COVID-19 on Persons with Disabilities in Zimbabwe, Amplifying the Voices of women & girls with disabilities in Zimbabwe: A Comprehensive Study, Interface of Disability, Gender and Culture in Zimbabwe Perspectives of Communities: Abridged Summary Report and Harmful cultural beliefs and practices, stigma and discrimination towards women and girls with disabilities: a toolkit for change. The Expo also offered an opportunity for the dissemination of Spotlight Initiative products such as access to justice by women and girls with disabilities position paper, Protocol on the Multi-Sectoral Management of Sexual Abuse and Violence, and several knowledge products in accessible formats, namely braille, CDs with videos in sign language, flash disks with audios and video formats.

Furthermore, the Expo also witnessed the participation of several UNESCO partners within the Spotlight Initiative. These included the Federation of Organizations of Disabled People in Zimbabwe (FODPZ), Disabled Women Support Organisation, Deaf Women Included as well as the Ministry of Public Service, Labour & Social Welfare, specifically the National Disability Board and the Department of Disability Affairs. The partners showcased several services they proffer with support from the Spotlight Initiative.

The national disability expo ended on a high note with several progressive and promising commitments made by the President of Zimbabwe, which will contribute to promotion of disability rights, implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, inclusive service delivery and empowerment of persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe. Several government officials were also in attendance and made commitments to ensure the meaningful inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities within all key sectors.