Dear Friends and Colleagues
The nine year walk that the African Network for Evidence – to -Action in Disability (AfriNEAD) will complete in November 2016, has been a long encouraging journey that has afforded the network family with rich continental experience which contributed baskets of fruits filled with disability knowledge, research and understanding drawn from the living experiences of persons with disabilities (PWDs). This information on disability research evidence has been drawn from the tip to the top of the African continent. Since the inauguration of AfriNEAD in 2007 more than 18 African countries and 7 countries in other continents have pledged their support to advancing the debate on how disability research evidence can be used as a tool to accelerate the process of realizing equity and human dignity for PWD in Africa.
The network has managed to table four symposia since its birth in 2007. The themes for these symposia were:
- 2007: Realising the rights of disabled people in Africa.
- 2009: The ABC of research evidence –to Action: Putting United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) principles into action for a rights based change. http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml
- 2011: Building communities of trust: Evidence –to- action in disability research.
- 2014: Intensifying disability research and practice to achieve MDGs in Africa: Our experience and aspirations for the future.
The themes for these symposia were carefully thought and coined by both the AfriNEAD governing structure and the local organizing committees in countries that hosted the symposia. I would like to draw the attention of the AfriNEAD family to the coining of the second theme for the 2009 AfriNEAD symposium whereby the UNCRPD articles and its evaluation instrument were compressed and used as a tool to develop the 9 key themes that form the basis of AfriNEAD symposia. A substantial number of African countries have rectified the UNCRPD, it is with this thought in mind that the 2009 AfriNEAD symposium organisers felt that by using the UNCRPD as a base for organising the themes of AfriNEAD symposia, this will give the network an understanding on how disability researchers are responding to aspects that have been tabled by the UNCRPD for the advancement and equalization of rights for PWDs in Africa. The UNCRPD endorses the concept of mutual interdependence and Ubuntu (an African concept and principle that encourages us all, to support and assist each other) principles by highlighting the possibilities for a global approach to disability work, paying particular attention to Article 32- addressing International Cooperation:
States Parties recognize the importance of international cooperation and its promotion, in support of national efforts for the realization of the purpose and objectives of the present Convention, and will undertake appropriate and effective measures in this regard, between and among States and, as appropriate, in partnership with relevant international and regional organizations and civil society, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities.
The above statement highlights the need to continue holding hands and working together both at internal, regional and international levels. Our feet are still wet from coming out of the Malawi symposium in 2014. We ALL will agree that the 4th AfriNEAD symposium in Malawi was a special event that demonstrated the maturity of the network. We received close to hundred (100) abstracts and close to two hundred delegates attended the conference. Delegates came from both regional and international areas of the world. We were happy to see how the Malawi Organizing and Technical Committee worked hard to ensure that PWDs from Malawi attended the conference. As a network family and Stellenbosch University, we want to express sincere gratitude to the leadership of the University of Malawi.
The 4th AfriNEAD symposium in Malawi pointed to some critical issues that require us within the AfriNEAD secretariat to focus and remain resolute in building up this network to live up to its intentions. Kindly familiarize yourself with the report that is available on pages of this website. Three areas will require some consolidation before we enter the 2017 conference and these are: (1) The AfriNEAD Country Working Groups; (2) the Management of AfriNEAD recommendations/resolutions and (3) Collation of papers from the 4th AfriNEAD symposium for a second AJOD supplement. We are proud of our AJOD journal (www.ajod.org). It is now an accredited journal in South Africa and Norway. It also has tabled its first supplement from the 2011 symposium papers. Now this is a clear call for presenters in all the commission groups of the 2014 AfriNEAD symposium to prepare their papers for the 2nd supplement of the AJOD.
We also would like to introduce the AfriNEAD membership to the GATE project -Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology -which is a WHO – World Health Organization – global initiative that aim to advance the area of Assistive Technology- AT for PWDs http://www.who.int/phi/implementation/assistive_technology/phi_gate/en/
AfriNEAD has committed to join hands with WHO in the promotion and advancement of the this area in Africa using the AfriNEAD country working groups as a vehicle that will ensure that research, programmes and advocacy is developed in this area. In small steps we are starting to develop a focus in this area starting with a collaborative project on the mapping of service providers for AT in Africa starting with countries that are linked to SAFOD http://www.safod.net/ with them being the key driver of the project. Other stakeholders that are linked to the project are Washington University in Seattle and Dimagi which is a company that offers healthcare informatics services in the fields of healthcare, clinical trials and population research.
The 5th AfriNEAD conference in 2017 which will be in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana from the 7-9 August 2015 will also focus in the area of AT. The theme for this conference is: “Disability and Inclusion in Africa: The Role of Assistive Technology”. It was decided in the 4th AfriNEAD conference in 2014 in Malawi that AfriNEAD symposia will be in future now conferences to ensure better access to funding opportunities. The academic staff of KNUST have taken seriously the issue of assisting and encouraging their university to integrate disability issues in their academic programmes and have now a BSc in disability and Rehabilitation and MSc in disability Studies.
The 2015 deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had now gone and passed. Organs such as the UN- United Nations -General Assembly in 2011, the 2013 High-level Meeting on Disability and Development and the international community have a critical opportunity to ensure the inclusion of disability in the emerging post 2015 MDG agenda. We, as the AfriNEAD family – our experience and aspirations for the future in research evidence includes the drawing of knowledge and wisdom from the lived experiences of persons with disabilities to guide the way forward for the inclusion of disability issues in the post 2015 MDG agenda. At the cornerstone of this post MDG response to disability issues is the adoption of a rights-based vision for change stated in the UNCRPD which includes an expression of linkage to human rights; accountability; empowerment; full participation of all relevant stakeholders; and non-discrimination and attention to vulnerable groups. Our perception within the AfriNEAD family is that these are the indicators for good practice when trying to turn theory into practice – they are the soul of good scientific practice. We believe that research evidence can only fully realize its objectives when it is intertwined with the inspiration and the souls of people with disabilities.
Dr. Gubela Mji,
Chairperson: The African Network on Evidence-to-Action in Disability (AfriNEAD)