In what is hailed as an historic moment, South Africa is currently hosting the first world gathering of people with disabilities ever to be held in the African Continent.
Scores of delegates from 46 countries worldwide - 13 of them from the African Continent - are currently gathering at the 8th World Assembly of Disabled People's International in Durban since Monday (Oct 10).
The gathering is hosted by the Disabled People International - an international body representing disabled people all over the world - in conjunction with the Disabled People of South Africa and the Department of Women, Children & People with Disabilities.
Themed "Disability Movement United in Creating a Society for all through the implementation of the United Nation Convention on Disability and the Millennium Development Goals" the summit highlights the role governments and organized disabled people's groupings can play in addressing the rights of these communities.
In her opening remarks, Minister for Women, Children & People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana spoke to the role of government in ensuring that the rights of disabled people are mainstreamed into government policies, programmes and laws.
The Minister also acknowledged the successes of some departments who are meeting the minimum 2% stipulated target but also expressed disappointment at those who are not.
Speakers have argued very strongly for the need by governments to ensure that the rights, interests and concerns of disabled people are integrated in all programmes that implement these two conventions.
Experts have delivered papers on how the disabled people are left out of decision making and planning processes across all sectors thus denying the disabled people to make substantive inputs on issues that affect their lives.
Education, ICT and poverty alleviation programmes have been cited as some of the key areas that exclude disabled people and yet, these are key areas that could contribute to the actualization of their rights and improvement of their situation.
Other key areas emphasized are respects for the rights of children with disabilities, gender based violence and the impact of HIV and Aids. The latter is particularly worrying as it raises some of the stereotypes that prevail in society around sexuality of disabled women and their maternal health needs.
Various departments, including the DPSA, are exhibiting in the summit documents that are pertinent to the rights of disabled people.
The DPSA's stall is managed by Communication and Diversity Management component.
Various materials are on show and participants have shown great interest in the JobAccess documents and Know Your Rights booklet.
The assembly ends on Thursday with the election of a new governance structure of the DPI and announcement of the next assembly host in four years.Zingisile Mapazi