Organized by the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), the Southern Africa Disability Round Table Forum brought together various disability actors from June 20 to 23, 2017 at Holiday Inn Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa, with the overall aim of reflecting and evaluating the work of SAFOD and the disability movement over the past three decades.
This was the first regional roundtable forum organized by SAFOD, and hence historic. The intention of SAFOD was to use the platform as a springboard to begin more regular, consistent, and meaningful engagement with different stakeholders within the disability sector in the region to advance the agenda of disability mainstreaming and inclusive development. For this reason, the intention of SAFOD was to make the forum a triennial event.
I am humbled to report that the 2017 forum turned out to be very successful to the extent that the delegates did not hesitate to support and formally endorse the idea of making the forum be held at triennial intervals. In this context, the next forum was expected to be held in 2020.
Running under the theme “Reflecting on 30 years of Disability Advocacy & Activism in Southern Africa”, the 2017 Roundtable Forum sought to create a regional platform where various stakeholders in the disability sector could reflect upon the achievements or milestones during the 30-year period; discuss the challenges which had been experienced throughout the same period; and dialogue on how delegates, including development partners, could effectively support both SAFOD and the entire disability sector in sustaining the gains that had been made so far.
The Roundtable Forum also contributed towards shaping the strategic direction of not only SAFOD but the entire disability movement in the region, shaping both the organization’s new five-year strategic plan as well as the approach towards achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Disability Roundtable Forum was part of the anniversary commemorations of SAFOD which clocked 30 years in 2016.
Coincidentally, this was a significant year as the new SDGs had just replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) which were devoid of disability indicators; the UNCRPD had just clocked 10 years; and SAFOD, being the only credible network of national federations of DPOs in SADC, had just begun implementing its Strategic Plan.
The forum played a significant role in raising awareness about disability mainstreaming among donor agencies and other key partners who discussed how they could effectively integrate disability within their various programs in the region. This was achieved not only through the presentations, keynote address/speeches, and deliberations during the main event, but also through a number of side events that were organized to provide more insights on issues affecting the disability sector in the region. The side events focused on assistive technology in the region organized by SAFOD and its partners the University of Washington and AfriNEAD; disability mainstreaming in disaster risk reduction organized by Federation of the Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA) and its partner NAD, and community-based inclusive development organized by the CBR Africa Network (CAN) and its partner CBM.
On the evening of June 23, 2017, SAFOD climaxed the event by organizing a Gala Dinner to honor disability activists for their outstanding contributions over the period of 30 years in each of the ten countries where SAFOD currently operates. The Southern Africa Disability Champions Awards is an initiative to sustain activism and advocacy for the mainstreaming of disability within SADC. SAFOD also presented Private Sector Excellence Awards in recognition of private sector entities that had demonstrated disability inclusiveness.
Key issues and recommendations – touching on research, advocacy, capacity-building of DPOs, networking, and collaboration among different stakeholders, just to mention a few – have been articulated in the forum report. We invite you to read the summary of issues and recommendations in the report. Feel free to download and share. On this website, you can also download almost all the presentations; the speeches and the keynote address; pictures, and some videos.
It is my wish that if you attended the 2017 forum, you will be inspired to attend the next event in 2020; if you did not, well, you have another chance to contribute, learn and network with various amazing individuals that will be gracing the event once again.
Since this was the first event of this nature, we trust that we will make the next event even better; even more interesting; and even more impactful. This is so because we believe in learning from experience to improve on our work.
On behalf of the Regional Executive Council (REC) of SAFOD, the SAFOD Secretariat, and the entire membership, and on my own behalf, I look forward to seeing you at the next Southern Africa Disability Round Table Forum, in 2010.
Mrs. Rachel Kachaje