Malawi: Lions Strive for Accessibility to Services By the Disabled

Lilongwe — A Brazilian National on a tour across Africa dubbed 'Waking Africa', has said there is need for people to understand challenges that people with disabilities face in course of accessing different services.

Jose Castro, a member of the Brazil Lions Club, walks by foot a distance of 30 kilometres a day.

His tour, which aims at raising awareness on barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities, started his tour in South Africa on November 3, 2019 and is heading to Egypt pushing a wheel chair.

He will walk through countries that are between South Africa and Egypt, amongst the countries that Castro will pass through is Malawi where he was on Sunday, February 9.

Speaking with Malawi News Agency, Castro said there is need for people to come together to create a world where persons with disabilities can access everything just like any other person.

He further said there is no country in the world with full accessibility of services for the said group. Castro observed that people with disabilities in some countries have completely no access to various services.

The Brazilian Lion said such a situation makes the marginalised group lag behind in most of the things happening in the society.

"This trip is there mainly to change the mindset of the societies and get the attention of the society on issues that affect the disabled regarding accessibility to services.

"They should also have the privileges that everyone enjoys in the society," Castro said.

Lions Club District 412B Media and Public Relations Chairperson Lion Jones Thombozi commended Castro, saying issues of physical access by persons with disability are huge and crosscutting although largely hidden.

Thombozi said bringing awareness to these issues is the first step and does not end there. He said the next step was to work with policy frameworks and workplace initiatives to advance improvements and recognition.

"Locally, we may not have fully embraced these challenges that our colleagues face, so we need to start conversations around these and engage the right stakeholders to work together and start surmounting these challenges," Thombozi said.

"Lion Jose Castro's 'Walking Africa' started with one step and as Lions in this District, we will certainly join him with our own first step to address these challenges," he said.

Lion Thombozi welcomed Castro at Mchinji border and would walk with him through Lilongwe, Kasungu to Mzuzu and through to the Songwe border where their fellow Tanzanian Lions will take over.

Malawi Council for the Handicapped Public Relations Officer, Harriet Kachimanga said they consider Castro's courtesy a very good initiative, saying it would help people realise the challenges faced by those with disabilities and that the society contributes a lot to these challenges.

Kachimanga said in turn, the public will be cautious on what to do to ensure that persons with disabilities are given conducive environment in the society.

She said the issue of accessibility is serious as persons with disabilities face challenges in accessing education, health care and livelihood services, just to mention a few.

"In many institutions such as schools and hospitals, structures are inaccessible for those with mobility challenges.

"Similarly, information is also inaccessible to those with hearing and visual impairments in schools, hospitals and other institutions," she said, adding that the end result is that persons in this group are excluded in the society.

Malawi was the sixth country for Castro to step in since his journey started. He is expected to reach Egypt by December 3, 2020.

So far, he has travelled in countries like South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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