Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane: Launch of Disability Rights Awareness Month 2019

3 Nov 2019

Address by Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister in The Presidency: Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities at the national launch of Disability Rights Awareness Month 2019

Programme Directors
Ministers and Deputy Ministers Present here today
Deputy Minister of Women,Youth and Persons with Disabilities Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize
Acting Director General, Ms Shoki Tshabalala
Leaders of our Inter-Faith Community
Leaders of organisations of and for persons with disabilities
Members of the Presidential Working Group on Disability
Members of the media                                  
Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning, I am honoured to be here today to officially launch the Disability Rights Awareness Month 2019.

South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December.

3 December is the International Day of Person with Disability, and is also commemorated as a National Disability Rights Awareness day.

The clarion call for the sector is “nothing about us without us” and we take that very seriously as government. Yesterday, DM Hlengiwe Mkhize had an opportunity to spend the day in conversation with leaders of the disability sector, to unpack the causal factors of the barriers they experience, and to agree on a few priorities for the national disability rights agenda.  I will like to take this moment to thank all the Leaders of organisations of and for persons with disabilities who attended and participated on the engagement.

The Ministry in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has been tasked as overall champions to drive the transformative national agenda that will create a South Africa which is truly inclusive of persons with disabilities in every way

President Ramaphosa has elevated three designated groups for meaningful attention during the Sixth Administration, i.e. women, youth and persons with disabilities. 

He has done so by creating a Ministry in the Presidency to ensure that we accelerate the national agenda for these three groups.  The Department’s mandate is to lead on socio-economic transformation and participation of women, youth and persons with disabilities through mainstreaming, advocacy, innovation, monitoring and evaluation.

Although much progress has been made in giving persons with disabilities access to more opportunities over the past 25 years, uptake of these opportunities, have been slow for a number of reasons. 

Government has, through engagement with persons with disabilities themselves, developed a better understanding of what these barriers to equitable access and participation are. 

We will therefore over the next five years focus on targeted interventions to strengthen universal access and design, inclusive of sustainable and continuous access to reasonable accommodation support measures across the life cycle of persons with disabilities. 

We will also be strengthening consequence management for duty-bearers and recourse for rights-holders through the development of national disability law.  So whereas the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act advocates for equality of outcome, national disability law will focus on enforcement of interventions to achieve equality for persons with disabilities.

The Medium Term Strategic Framework for 2019-2024 will for the first time elevate the rights of persons with disabilities across all seven national priorities. 

  • Particular attention will be given to the economic liberation of persons with disabilities through expanded access to public procurement, decent work, business ownership and enterprise development and access to land.
  • Improved access to universal education, life skills, skills development and training remains a priority for the next five years.  This will be supported by targeted measures to ensure early development screening of all children for developmental delays and disability, with concurrent individualized early intervention services for children with disabilities.
  • Government also acknowledges that disability affects the whole family, and not just the individual, and will therefore prioritise the roll-out of a basket of social services to families caring for children and adults of disabilities regardless of geographical location.  This includes ensuring access by all persons with disabilities, regardless of the type of impairment, to integrated community-based personal assistance services supporting independent living in community.
  • The incorporation of universal design principles, norms and standards, including programs to retrofit existing buildings, transport and ICT systems and infrastructure, in all infrastructure and neighbourhood development grants and tax rebates, will be prioritised.
  • Children and women with disabilities experience increased vulnerability to gender-based violence and femicide.   We will therefore ensure that targeted interventions are put in place in the National Strategic Plan on GBVF to manage the increased risk, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to book.  This is inclusive of ensuring that we strengthen and expand protection measures to protect children and adults with disabilities in institutionalised settings such as special school boarding facilities, mental health care facilities, as well as residential facilities.

But as government we know it is not only what we do that makes a difference, but also HOW we do it.

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities will be strengthening the embedding of our Gender, Youth and Disability-responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and auditing across government.  This includes providing national government departments with feedback on the inclusion of disability priorities in the strategic and annual performance plans.

We will also be supporting the development and implementation of innovative interventions for the priorities mentioned before, by mobilising our social partners to participate in strategic partnerships. 

Programme Directors, in conclusion

Meaningful change starts with each of us at an individual level.  It requires of us to reflect in what we are doing (or not doing!), our own attitudes towards persons with disabilities, the language we use when we speak of/to persons with disabilities, 

We need to create enabling environments in which children and adults with disabilities can thrive, can self-actualise, can dream, experience joy, hope and intimacy.

One of our tasks is to ensure that we leave no-one behind, and that we start by reaching those furthest behind, first. We must do so by acknowledging the compounded marginalisation experienced by persons with disabilities, whether as a result of race, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, the type and severity of impairment, geographical location or socio-economic status.

Raising awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities, celebrating their achievements, highlighting the physical, attitudinal, economic and communication barriers they experience, and informing society about the enablers required to remove these barriers, is an ongoing campaign.

Disability Rights Awareness Month will therefore over the next five years be strengthened through an around the year integrated campaign to inform, educate and share good practice. Persons with disabilities themselves, through their representative organisations, will be provided with platforms to lead this campaign.

The Sixth Administration is committed to changing the lives of persons with disabilities in meaningful ways over the next 5 years. We call on our provincial and local spheres of government, our captains of industry, organs of civil society, our faith-based organisations and on disability rights activists to join us in structuring action-oriented partnerships that will socially and economically liberate our fellow South Africans with disabilities!

I thank you.