Ratification of disability Convention a milestone
MBABANE – The ratification of the UN convention on the rights of people living with disabilities (PLWDs)is a milestone for the country.
The process of ratifying the United Nations Convention has signalled a positive step towards the protection and promotion of the rights of people living with disabilities. Swaziland Disability Rights and Inclusion Project (SWADRIP)ã€€Advocacy Officer Dolly Shongwe explained that although the kingdom signed the convention five years ago the signature alone did not legally bind the country to comply with the provisions of the convention.
"All it was was a signal that the country intended to become party to the convention in future. Also by signing, the State agreed that it will not do anything inconsistent with the objectives and purpose of the convention; however, PLWDs have always been attitudinally and environmentally discriminated against," Shongwe said.
Save the Children applauded His Majesty King Mswati III and Parliament for what they coined a ‘great move’ and said they had also noticed that the Disability Unit had begun the process of drafting the Disability Policy.
"As an organisation that has a newly set up project (Swaziland Disability Rights and Inclusion Project- SWADRIP), which seeks to advocate for the improved quality of life for people with disabilities through increased inclusion and empowerment, we envisage that our advocacy work will be easier since these instruments are key to the protection and promotion of the rights of PLWDs," she said.
She made an example of a provision in the convention; Article 4(1) (b) which obliges state parties to take all appropriate measures including legislation to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitutes discrimination against persons living with disabilities.
"This then creates a duty for Swaziland as a state party to the convention to enact national laws that will give effect to the convention," she explained.
The convention will set out guidelines and directions for government to provide equal opportunities for PLWDs and non-disabled people and it will assist government in strengthening its capacity to address disability issues.
A critical role that now exists for the organisation, under the SWADRIP initiative, is to maintain a good working relationship with the various ministries and institutions that advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.
"Save the Children has been the pioneer of the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act therefore we are of the view that with the experience and effort exerted in the Act will enable us to work efficiently as well.
This is because the issues of inclusions for people living with disabilities have been a challenge, hence the need for advocating for the mainstreaming of disability issues in all legislative frameworks is crucial," Shongwe said.