THE Lesotho National Federation of the Disabled (LNFOD) has appealed to the government to accelerate efforts that would lead to the enactment into law of the Disability Equity Bill to help address the growing needs of people with disabilities.
Speaking at the Commemoration of the International Day of People with Disability (IDPD) held in Leribe this week, LNFOD Chairperson Mabataung Khetsi said a law focusing on people with disability would help strengthen the protection of an estimated 64,000 people with disabilities in Lesotho.
The commemoration was attended by people with disability, the Minister of Social Development, Matebatso Doti, other government officials and development partners.
Ms Khetsi said government should invest more on addressing disability concerns as it affects all people in some way. All people, she said, are also vulnerable to disability as causes include trauma from accidents. Of the 64,000 people with disabilities, 36 percent are visually impaired.
“The number of people with disabilities is increasing due to various causes including high cases of accident-related trauma. An Act of parliament will therefore help in promoting programmes that seek to ensure the rights of people with disabilities are recognized, respected and protected,” Ms Khetsi said.
She said despite many challenges faced by this segment of the society, the presentation of the Disability Equity Bill before parliament has delayed for too long.
“The government keeps giving us assurances that it will be presented in parliament. Just recently, the Ministry of Social Development informed us that it will be presented in parliament before end of 2017,” she said.
Ms Khetsi said an alternative route the government could pursue to promote the rights of people with disability, was to domesticate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) through an Act of Parliament.
“This Act would direct the establishment of an independent body to monitor whether rights are being respected, including monitoring the ministry of Social Development. This is because, while the government has adopted the Social Protection Strategy in 2014 to also among others, provide disability grants, this has not happened three years down the line.” As a result, Lesotho is still struggling to meet the right to social protection as stipulated under article 28 of the UN Convention.
Ms Khetsi appealed to the Minister Doti to take action with regards to the implementation of the disability grant in the 2018-2019 financial year.
She also raised other issues of concern including ensuring that the country’s education system was inclusive of people with disabilities, particularly students in pre and primary; secondary; and tertiary schools.
“Despite government’s significant investment in the education sector, most schools in the country remain inaccessible mainly due to the physical infrastructure that is blind to disability needs.”
Her organization, she said, continues to urge the government to review the Education Policy for inclusivity that will help to address the barriers faced by students with disabilities.
Ms Khetsi also urged the Ministry of Social Development to push for the allocation of funds to enable the implementation of the National Disability Mainstreaming Plan of 2015 in the public sector.
“This will go a long way in transforming service delivery and ensure that services provided address the existing inequalities suffered by people with disabilities,” Ms Khetsi said.
In her response Ms Doti said her ministry’s presence was meant to listen for actions that would improve services.
“We are going to discuss all issues raised and meet with LNFOD for a way forward. I understand that all issues are urgent, particularly the Disability Equity Bill, which needs to be enacted into law. Ensuring that all this happens is a process, which the Ministry of Social Development is prepared to follow to make sure that the rights of people with disabilities are respected and protected,” Ms Doti said.
She appealed to people with disabilities to have faith in the new government.
“Given that you have been left behind for many years, I know that life is difficult for you and also trusting government can be an issue. However, I would like to assure you that I will act on all issues presented here for your conditions to improve.”
She said her ministry will advocate for funding for the implementation of the National Disability Mainstreaming Plan, as this would ensure the integration of disability issues by all sectors.