Tuesday, 25 November 2008
FAWE Executive Director Dr Codou Diaw gave the keynote speech at the 4th Women’s Forum of the African Union of the Blind (AFUB) held in Casablanca, Morocco, from 23 to 25 November 2008.
Speaking on the obstacles and remedies to providing meaningful inclusive education for visually impaired girls and women in Africa, Dr Diaw called for a rights-based approach to inclusion. She stressed that meeting the practical and strategic needs of the blind, one of the most vulnerable and neglected groups in society, not only translates society’s commitment to equity and equality but is also the fulfilment of a fundamental right.
‘When speaking of inclusion, we must go beyond just disability and think of possibility from a rights perspective,’ she urged.
Dr Diaw said policies and processes should ensure that blind women’s and girls’ concerns are mainstreamed into education policies and translated into an inclusive educational provision that is respectful and responsive to the specific needs of girls and women living with blindness and other disabilities. She also recommended ICT training for capacity-building, empowerment and poverty reduction among the visually impaired, as well as teacher training and sensitisation on the needs of blind or visually impaired learners.
Dr Diaw pointed out that social exclusion, combined with a range of other factors including poor education, unemployment, limited access to economic opportunities and negative attitudes and prejudices in society, are inextricably linked to poverty among the visually impaired. These factors have led many blind African girls and women, who make up over 60 percent of Africa’s blind, to shy away from social and community participation and to accept marginalised activities as their sole source of livelihood.
Education is a vehicle that can facilitate the realisation of the commitment to provide the visually impaired with the necessary conditions to live fulfilling and productive lives. However, Dr Diaw warned that inclusive education has been unjustly equated to ‘special’ education.
‘Meaningful inclusion goes beyond the provision of specials services which tend to “ghettoise” recipients,’ she cautioned.
‘In order for African countries to get closer to making inclusion a reality for visually disabled men and women in the continent, concerted advocacy efforts must be combined with practical transformation of our education systems to accommodate the needs of blind learners, not make learners conform to the system,’ she said.
Dr Diaw added that the conditions that make inclusive education happen are the same as those necessary to the achievement of Education for All.
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