PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS

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By Nomfundo Xulu-Lentsoane 

  • The Project for the Expansion of Respite Care Services to Families of/and Children with Disabilities, initiated in 2012 under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, aims to create an inclusive society.
  • JICA’s contribution includes providing 10 disability-friendly vehicles to the Department of Social Development, equipped with hoists and ample space, ensuring accessibility for all.
  • Ms. Molamu, Director of Services to Persons with Disabilities, expresses gratitude for JICA’s assistance and highlights the ongoing implementation of the Record of Discussion, focusing on respite care models and capacity-building workshops.

On 31 August 2023, the Chief Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) South Africa – Mr Okada Kaoru and the National Department of Social Development’s Acting Director General – Mr Linton Mchunu signed a Project for the Expansion of Respite Care Services to Families of/and Children with Disabilities. 

The purpose of this project, which was initially introduced to the Department of Social Development in 2012 through a partnership between the DSD and JICA, in the implementation of United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of 2006, is to ensure that services are available to create an inclusive society for persons with disabilities, their families, and communities at large.

A noble gesture by JICA was demonstrated through the provision of 10 disability-friendly buses to the national and provincial Departments of Social Development, to enhance the participation, the visibility and restore the dignity of Persons with Disabilities- ensuring that No province is left behind.

“These buses are equipped with hoists to lift wheelchairs and space for four wheelchairs. They are also able to transport an additional four seated people and a driver. They are there to enable the department to take services to the people, enhance the participation of persons with disabilities in the development and provision of the services, and in the process – help raise their  voices, those of parents and their families,” expresses Ms Manthipi Molamu – Director of Services to Persons with Disabilities. 

Having been the main presenter on behalf of the department during the initial discussions with JICA, Ms Molamu expresses her gratitude for the partnership.

The signing of the cooperation agreement between DSD and JICA in August 2023 marked the completion of the first phase (2021-2023) of the partnership with JICA, in partnership with Senior JICA Advisor, Ms. Maho Harada, and the beginning of the second phase for implementing the expansion of the Respite Care Services project for families and children with disabilities.

“We are in the second phase of implementing the Record of Discussion also known as the R/D. The first phase commenced in 2021 and was completed in 2023 where we, as a country, were enlisted with the assistance of an expert (Mr Hiroyuki Hasegawa) who was able to develop a model of how best to implement the R/D – particularly in rural communities,” she explains. 

According to Ms Molamu, extending the implementation of this R/D with expert advice from social workers will go a long way in restoring community understanding and treatment of persons with disability. 

Explaining the project, Ms Molamu sums up the journey of the Project for the Expansion of Respite Care Services to Families of/and Children with Disabilities. 

“The project was implemented in two project study sites, Upington (Northern Cape) and Khumbula / Ka-Daantjie (Mpumalanga).”

“The first phase of the project was focused on the identification of the models of respite care services for the two selected study sites and capacitating the key stakeholders to enhance their understanding of respite care services and enable them to implement them.”

In the quest to elevate the voice of the parents, two respite care models were selected – home-based and centre-based care models.  

The following activities were implemented by various stakeholders in the project study sites, which included parents of children with disabilities, persons with disabilities,  social workers, NPO members and government officials.

  1. Establishment of a working group and a key collaboration platform at each study site to facilitate the participation of key stakeholders in the implementation of the project activities.
  2. Baseline surveys to identify the barriers encountered by children with disabilities and their families, as well as to pinpoint the key areas where respite care can offer assistance. These surveys also aim to assess the availability of resources and services for this demographic.
  3. Capacity-building workshops for parents of children with disabilities and working groups.
  4. Development and implementation of activity plans developed by the working groups. 
  5. Development and implementation of capacity building programmes for caregivers, service providers (NPOs) and social workers,” she says. 

With further assistance from Ms Mika Kusakabe and Ms Chiake Kawaura, who were welcomed by the Acting Deputy Director General of the Strategy and Organisational Transformation (SOT), Mr Thabani Buthelezi, on 04 March 2024, Ms Molami says there is much more transformation to be expected.  

In his note to the advisors, the Acting Director General also gave an esteemed welcome. “Ms Mika Kusakabe and Ms Chiaki Kawaura, welcome to our warm country, South Africa, and the vibrant and high-spirited National Department of Social Development. Working together, we can do more towards promoting and protecting the rights of children with disabilities and their families.”

“Our study sites, Mbombela Local Municipality within Ehlanzeni District, Mpumalanga, and Dawid Kruiper Local Municipality within ZF Mgcawu district, Northern Cape, are eagerly awaiting you, and ready to continue with the respite care project. You are now part of us, and feel free to engage us,” he stated. 

Ms. Molamu expresses her excitement about the opportunity to educate communities on the fact that persons with disabilities also have human rights. She emphasises that this education begins at home, with parents and families, as a priority. Additionally, she highlights the role of social workers in providing guidance and assistance but stresses the importance for families to have a thorough understanding of different types of disabilities and how to care for their loved ones.

“Parents should be the voice of their children because we know that disabled children are voiceless. We need to encourage, capacitate and teach parents about the rights of their children for them to be able to stand up for them as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

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