Empowering people with disabilities in Zimbabwe

Blind from the age of three after contracting measles, Zimbabwean Kudzai Shava, in spite of his disability, went on to become a teacher, researcher, scholar and disability advocate.

Aside from his vast experience teaching in both mainstream and special schools for over 13 years, Kudzai has been heavily involved in voluntary, research and advocacy work, and has dedicated most of his working life to campaigning for the rights and empowerment of people with disabilities.

Speaking on International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPwD), he said university education inevitably made him become fully aware of the magnitude of social injustices, inequalities and human rights violations against people with disabilities in Zimbabwe.

Among other training, his advocacy work also led him to undertake an Australia Awards Fellowship in 2013, specifically focused on strengthening access to justice in Family Courts for disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities, in Zimbabwe.

Kudzai said his time in Australia was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the country and its culture and, in particular, how disabled people are perceived, supported and mainstreamed in society.

“The Fellowship enriched my understanding of the provision of access in terms of facilities and materials for disabled people in Australia. I experienced first-hand the accessibility of the Australian judicial system, as well as court buildings,” he said.

“Most disabled people in Zimbabwe face numerous challenges in accessing justice, largely because of their ignorance of how courts operate, their general fear of courts, physical inaccessibility of the courts and the expenses involved in accessing justice.”

As a result of his Fellowship, on his return from Australia, Kudzai conducted disability awareness training for judicial officers working with the Chief Magistrate in Zimbabwe. He said his key aim was to eventually assist his country to emulate Australia’s system of dispute resolution by establishing a comprehensive and inclusive legal aid mechanism to assist, in particular, disabled women and children who are victims of abuse.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to have learned a lot from Australia and I appreciate the Australia Awards policies that enable the equitable participation of all people in their training courses, including people with a disability.”

Wednesday, 3 December marks International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPwD) – a United Nations-sanctioned day that aims to increase public awareness, understanding and inclusion of people with disabilities and to celebrate their achievements.

The Australian Government has been supporting IDPwD since 1996. For more information on how the government empowers people with disabilities through its aid program in Africa, including its Australia Awards program, click here

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