The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) says people with disabilities should be given a platform to exercise their individual rights.
MHRC commissioner Marshal Chilenga was speaking in Lilongwe on Tuesday at a public inquiry to discuss problems that affect people with disabilities.
The inquiry, which attracted views from MHRC, stakeholders such as Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) and people with disabilities centred on testimonies, reactions, and answers aimed at addressing disability challenges.
“MHRC recognises that disability is a human rights issue. Persons with disabilities are identified as a vulnerable group, who need not be marginalised in the society,” said Chilenga.
He said there are records at MHRC offices on the challenges that people with disabilities face.
“Most of the problems include little access to amenities as only a few buildings accommodate them. There are also few specialist schools and shortage of materials like Braille in the few elementally schools available,” said Chilenga.
Chairperson of the public inquiry on disability rights issues, Justice Dr. Chifundo Kachale, said despite being a critical human rights issue, disability is also a development issue because of its bidirectional link to poverty.
“Disability can increase the risk of poverty, and poverty may increase the risk of disability. If people with disabilities do not have their needs met, they risk being affected by poverty and increase the risks of their disability,” said Kachale.
He said the inquiry will help gather evidence on the enjoyment of rights by persons with disabilities to ensure that special human rights instruments bring optimum benefits and meaning to the disability community in Malawi.
Executive council chairman of Fedoma, Simon Munde, expressed his gratitude for the initiative.
“This will help us express our feelings and explain most of the challenges we face because of the disabilities we have. However, this does not mean that we are looking for special treatment. We just want to enjoy our rights as any other Malawian citizen,” said Munde.