Hosted by Khulisa Social Solutions, a 3-day summit was held in Skills Village, Johannesburg, South Africa, to acknowledge the World Day of Social Justice, February 20th.  This year, 2019, The UNESCO theme is ““If You Want Peace & Development, Work for Social Justice”.

The Summit preceded visits to Tanzania, Zimbabwe and extensive stakeholder engagements in South Africa with PWA, by Managing Director of Khulisa Social Solutions (Khulisa) in order to identify common needs amongst NGOs and key stakeholders working with this highly marginalised sector of our society, particularly in Africa where the prevalence of PWA is higher than anywhere else in the world.

A synopsis of the 3-day summit is given below:

Day 1 – 18th February:  In order to depict a comprehensive understanding of the lived experiences of PWA, there were presentations on human rights, disability employment rights and finally, actual challenges and successes extracted from a veteran of 30 years of working in Tanzania with PWA.

Day 2 – 19th February:  Work continued on the Summit’s agreed task of arriving at a consolidated Statement of Intent as regards the priorities going forward in the field of PWA.

IQBusiness conducted a workshop directed at stimulating and surfacing innovation in any serious efforts to solve or impact on societal problems where social justice is patently absent. Although not doing justice to their methodology (summary report available on request), the diagram (left) depicts the ‘sweet spot’ of Innovation which lies within the intersection of 3 core components of design theory – identify what is viable, what is feasible and what is desirable.

Why focus on Innovation? It was gleaned from the various contributions, perspectives and reflections of work with PWA that if social justice was to prevail, in a world of misinformation, superstition and fear, what was needed was a compassionate evidence-led approach.

The summit participants echoed this urgency for action in their evaluation feedback – what next? When?   How do we ensure that the work of the summit continues?

Day 3 -20th February: The panel discussion proved popular and well supported with engaging and provocative exchanges, surfacing again the necessity for a progressive (innovative?) path ahead. There was a suggestion to repeat the Summit in another country (in Africa?).

A highlight of the event was the public reading of the Declaration of Intent by 10-year-old PWA activist, Hannah Tshuma.  The keynote speaker was Dr Ally Possi, Deputy Solicitor General from Tanzania.  Feedback on the preceding two-day summit and a panel discussion which was supported with engaging and provocative exchanges surfacing again the necessity for a progressive path ahead focusing specifically on:

  • Education amongst PWA and the public at large
  • Increase number of advocates
  • Enhanced advocacy at all levels working in partnership with the government
  • Increased collaboration amongst all PWA movements across Africa

The final Declaration signed on the 21st February by representatives from South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe follow in Annexure A.

Closing remarks

The 3-day summit, the first of its kind worldwide, was a significant milestone in the global network that has been undertaken for PWA.  The summit broke barriers that may have existed between countries, between institutions, between cultures. The common enemy of ignorance and superstition was clearly at play in most communities where PWA lived, with varying degrees of hostility and ignorance being surfaced.

Although this is a Campaign of Time – one that will need possibly a decade before true impact can be measured, it must be recognised that innovation, a progressive outlook and urgency were the take-home messages of the 3-day summit. Shame and secrecy may have stunted real attempts to get proper prevalence rates, and the unspoken truth may be that the prevalence of PWA is far higher than is currently known.

Within the Sustainable Development Goals, however, lies a blueprint of global collaboration, and the PWA Project touches several goals, which positions it well for attention and collaborative partnerships.

Countries are going to be held the account for their SDG efforts – the Family Reunification project of PWA deserves to be positioned for their urgent attention.