Prof. Gubela Mji,
Chairperson: The African Network on Evidence-to-Action in Disability (AfriNEAD)
Dear Friends and Colleagues
As part of its networking activities, AfriNEAD has managed to host 5 conferences, initially 2 in Cape Town (2007 & 2009) followed by 3: in Zimbabwe 2011, Malawi 2014 with the last one in Ghana in 2017. On the 1st – 2nd December 2020 AfriNEAD will again host its 6th conference in Cape Town with the theme:
“Disability Unplugged – Beyond Conventions and Charters, what really matters to People with Disabilities in Africa?”
Despite COVID-19, AfriNEAD has opted to continue with the conference using virtual means of offering a conference. AfriNEAD has partnered with Edit Microsystems (EM) who will support the AfriNEAD conference with technical aspects of the conference.
This conference will culminate with celebrations on the 3rd of December which is the international day for Disability. AfriNEAD will partner with the City of Cape Town to Celebrate this International Day for Persons with Disability.
This conference is the 6th of tri-annual series of conferences to be held on the African Continent, following the 2007 Symposium on Evidence-to-Action in disability (SSEAD 2007) at Stellenbosch University that launched AfriNEAD. The vision of AfriNEAD is to become a significant contributor to and facilitator around the needs of people with disabilities in Africa, by assisting in translating existing and new disability research into meaningful evidence based advocacy, practice, products and policy. AfriNEAD aims to foster relationships that will make the Network attributes of AfriNEAD comes to fruition.
Drawing guidance from the UNCRPD and its evaluation tool:
“The ABC of research evidence –to Action: Putting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) principles into action for a rights based change.”
The AfriNEAD conferences are offered around 8 thematic areas that are based on the 50 articles of the UNCRPD (see under call for abstracts). As we roll up our sleeves in preparation for the coming conference, we intend to draw guidance from the experiences of previous people from the three countries that hosted the AfriNEAD conferences: Mussa Chiwaula, SAFOD; Alister Munthali, University of Malawi and Anthony Edusei; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. One of the things we learnt from them when preparing for the AfriNEAD conference is how they engaged their institutions and their communities at large in advocating about disability related issues. The AfriNEAD conference became a prong and an advocacy tool for disability rights and Ubuntu in their areas. We learnt so much from our Colleagues.
Now that the conference is coming back home to Stellenbosch University and Cape Town, we too intend to apply what we have learnt. We started by visiting the Management of our own institution reminding it of its conscience and the need to demonstrate its strength by presenting how it has pledged solidarity to those at the margins. This has resulted in Stellenbosch University awarding an honorary degree to Ms Rachel Kachaje one of AfriNEAD’s greatest supporters and feisty disability advocates from Malawi. This was followed by Stellenbosch University declaring 2020 a year for persons with disability. The Deputy Vice Chancellor when welcoming new students also brought this understanding of the stand of Stellenbosch University on being an inclusive University and its commitment to disability issues.
AfriNEAD will have completed 13 years at the end of November 2020. AfriNEAD conferences have always been a space of revival for both the delegates and the mother body. We are very excited of the phase that AfriNEAD has entered. The network did not take its quest and journey of trying to be the African regional research network for Evidence –to- Action in disability lightly. It is within this quest that seasoned disability researchers have been identified; the relationship between researchers and Persons with Disabilities were visited, challenged and consolidated which have resulted in a strong partnership of persons with disability with researchers. It was in 2009 during these reflections that the idea behind the African Journal of Disability (AJOD) was born. As a young journal, the AJOD has surprised ALL with regard to its recognition by a majority of scientific journal spaces that need to recognize a manuscript of this nature. Thanks to Professor Leslie Swartz our first Editor in Chief who, with his golden touch, managed to steer the journal to these majestic heights. Now the journal is in the capable hands of Dr Charlotte Capri.
Developments of best models of good practice, in disability research, that are underpinned by good ethical practice, where persons with disability feel they can participate on all levels of the research process, including leading the research process is central to the message advocated by AfriNEAD. Some of models of good practice that has been coordinated under AfriNEAD were:
- African Policy on Disability and Development (APPOD): Exploring the inclusion of persons with disabilities on poverty reduction strategies.
- Equitable access to health Services for persons with disabilities
- Lately the: INFO-MAP project: which is a mapping exercise to locate providers of assistive devices for persons with disabilities.
The above mentioned research projects ensured the inclusion of persons with disabilities from the onset thinking about the research question to completion. With persons with disability playing an active role in all the various roles of the research process.
There are many more examples out there of research projects conducted by researchers affiliated to AfriNEAD.
As we enter this phase of the network we are aware of the need for the network to take its rightful position by bringing out its ethos and how it has responded to its constituency in the past and that by working together we can achieve more. It is within this understanding that AfriNEAD intends in the next phase to continue giving support and playing the position of being a vanguard for disability research in Africa. It is within this quest that AfriNEAD intends to continue strengthening the platform of disability research in Africa by focusing in the next 6 years on:
Encouraging African countries affiliated to AfriNEAD to embrace and implement the concept of Research Country Working Groups (RCWGs) in their own countries to ensure that internally each disability research is given a priority while AfriNEAD secretariat focus on:
- Coordinating research that has been done in African countries and making it available to the network members – limiting duplication – encourage repetition only on studies with weak
- Assist and support dissemination of research evidence
- Coordinating research methodologies and identifying best
- Creating data base of African disability researchers (have mainly data base for the Southern African region).
- Continuing to encourage young researchers to link with experienced researchers for capacity
- Identifying regional and international research funding organs and sharing information with African disability
- Coordinating disability status of countries affiliated to AfriNEAD and making this available on the AfriNEAD website sun.ac.za/afrinead
- Supporting the work done by the AJOD and ensuring that by end 2021 a component for AT publications has been created in the AJOD ajod.org
- Supporting the Assistive Technologies (AT) focus area and linking with both African and international partners to advance this area with regard to research and program development for various levels of
We intend to work closely with all of our partners both at local, regional and international levels on this quest for AfriNEAD to take its position as a regional hub for disability research in Africa.
We would like to thank the governing structure of AfriNEAD for supporting this network for the past 12 years.
Prof. Gubela Mji,