The impact of inclusive education and employment for persons with disabilities – An example from Africa

On 7 December, CBM celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by organising an event on “The impact of inclusive education and employment for persons with disabilities, an example from Africa”. 

The event counted on the participation of Claire Courteille-Mulder, Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) representation to the EU; Idriss Alzouma Maiga, Chair of the African Disability Forum (ADF), Tim Sauler, ACP-EU Delegate at the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany to the European Union (EU) and David Bainbridge, CBM’s International Director. Moderated by Ariane Lignier, CBM EU Policy Officer, the panel discussion was one of our key contributions to the European Disability and Development Week. 

Inclusive Education will open the path to Inclusive Employment

Idriss Alzouma raised attitudinal barriers towards persons with disabilities as the first challenge for being included in education and employment. Historically, persons with disabilities have been perceived as patients and not as persons able to take their own decisions. In addition, in many African countries disability is considered a curse, something to be hidden from the community. In this sense, girls and boys with disabilities face more difficulties to access education, which hinder future possibilities for women and men with disabilities to access the labour market.

Accessibility is also one of the main challenges to target when advocating for the right of children with disabilities to be included in education. Most of the times accessibility is mainly understood as physical barriers for wheelchair users. However, accessibility should cover the diversity of human needs, including accessible information or communication which is essential for a quality learning process. 

Employment as a tool for empowering persons with disabilities

During the event, two personal stories from the CBM programme End the Cycle were shared with the audience. Both of them expressed the objective of inclusive employment: empowering persons with disabilities by demonstrating the contribution and the benefits of inclusion to the individual and the society. Claire Courteille recognised the needs and skills of persons with disabilities. She also explained the different approaches that ILO is taking in order to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities. On the one hand, she pointed out positive examples of enterprises that hire persons with disabilities with the creation of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network. On the other hand, she also declared that the most sustainable way to have a disability inclusive perspective in the labour market is by mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities. In this sense, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in addition to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were mentioned as the legal frameworks and policies that open the path to really include persons with disabilities as citizens.

The discussion also highlighted the additional barriers that women and girls with disabilities face for being included in the community. Sexual violence is one of the examples that demonstrate the need for creating a safe environment for women and girls with disabilities. 

How can International Cooperation help to promote inclusive education and employment?

All speakers stressed the important role international partners, be they NGOs, development agencies or regional bodies, play in advancing education and employment opportunities of persons with disabilities. For example, the European Union as the largest donor on International Cooperation and, the first regional body on ratifying the CRPD, can promote the rights of persons with disabilities in many ways including through the provision of funding and through political dialog with the counterparts at the African Union. And the forthcoming reforms of key EU bilateral agreements offer an excellent opportunity to include the rights of persons with disabilities in key areas of life such as education and employment, said Tim Sauler at the event. CBM as an international NGO can engage in these discussions through advocacy in support of the disability movement who should be in the lead, concluded David Bainbridge.