Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD)

Flagship Program 8: SA-DCYD

Southern Africa Development Program for Children and Youth with Disabilities (SA-DCYD)

Under this program, the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), through its national affiliates, seeks to advocate for new, and strengthen existing, programs that aim to enhance the rights of Children and Youth with Disabilities and enable them to lead full and active lives in their communities within the Southern Africa Region.

The 2011 Disability World Report estimates that globally, some 180 million young people between the ages of 10-24 live with a physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health disability significant enough to make a difference in their daily lives. The vast majority of these young people, some 150 million (80%) live in the developing world, including in the Sub-Sahara Africa.

Children, adolescents and young adults are grouped together and discussed jointly because they share common characteristics: they are often bypassed both by the programs and policies designed for disabled children and youths, and they are left out of advocacy initiatives and employment schemes targeted for adults with disability. Nor are their unique social, psychological, education and economic needs addressed by programs designed to reach their non-disabled age-mates.

According to the UNESCO estimates that 98% of Children with Disabilities in developing countries do not attend school and 99% of Girls with Disabilities are illiterate. Furthermore, the UNICEF Factsheet, Children with Disabilities are one of the most marginalized and excluded groups of children, experiencing widespread violations of their rights. Discrimination arises not as a result of the intrinsic nature of children’s disability, but rather, as a consequence of lack of understanding and knowledge of its causes and implications, fear of difference, fear of contagion or contamination, or negative religious or cultural views of disability. Too often, children with disabilities are defined and judged by what they lack rather than what they have. Their exclusion and invisibility serves to render them uniquely vulnerable, denying them respect for their dignity, their individuality, even their right to life itself.

Youth with disabilities face dual disadvantages as individuals with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty even in developed countries. It is further compounded by poverty, social isolation, humanitarian emergencies, lack of services and support, and a hostile and inaccessible environment.

With several notable exceptions, there has been virtually no research on disabled children and young people as a distinct group in developing countries and what exists on young people with disability in the developed world focuses on them largely in the context of formal educational systems and transition to work programs. The call made by UNICEF in 1999 in its global survey on adolescents, for more research on the wide array of issues that influence the lives of disabled young people, remains largely unanswered.

SAFOD has, therefore, identified key actions and programmatic interventions in order to address the above challenges, as follows:

  1. Initiate quantitative and qualitative research into all aspects of human rights and development of children and youth with disabilities in the Southern Africa in collaboration with SAFOD’s national affiliates, Governments, academic institutions and/or research institutions
  2. Through its national affiliates, strengthen collaboration with all agencies, Governments, stakeholders that support children, youth to ensure that their services are accessible, appropriate and welcoming to disabled children, youth and their families.
  3. Advocate for the Youth for specific children and youth national development Strategy that recognize the needs of disabled children and youth.
  4. Mobilize its national affiliates to conduct disability anti-discrimination and education campaigns for children and youth disabilities that are age-appropriate and effective.
  5. Establish a process for including advice from disabled people on disability issues for children and youth within relevant government systems.
  6. Provide access for disabled children, youth and their families to child, youth and family-focused support, education, health care services, rehabilitation services, recreation opportunities and training.
  7. Advocate for national policies and systems that improve the support for disabled children and youth during transition between early childhood education, primary school, secondary school, tertiary education and employment.
  8. Advocate through national affiliates for the enhanced and meaningful participation of disabled children and youth in decision-making and giving them greater control over their lives, including those with intellectual disability.
  9. Advocate to Governments for the designs and/or development of a range of accommodation options so that disabled children and young people can live independently.
  10. Lobby with Governments for – and evaluate – educational initiatives about sexuality, safety and relationships for disabled children and youth.
  11. Maximize successful employment outcomes, including self-employment, through advocacy and education.