Conference on Disability

Speech by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Hazel Jenkins on the occasion of the Conference on Disability, 03 December 2009, Kimberley

It is a great honour for me to address you on this important occasion to mark world disability day. This conference is important because it’s where all participants are required to define a new chapter in the history of people with disabilities. World Disability Day on 3 December, today, is one day of the year set aside to respect and celebrate our disabled community across the globe.

The timing of the conference is significant because of the vital global changes occurring in the disability sector. Internationally, the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008 is a major milestone in the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms of people with a disability.

The observance of this day is very significant because it aims to promote awareness and understanding of disability issues and to mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

We are also pleased to see that South Africa has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and was identified as one of the pilot countries for the implementation of the Convention. This responsibility, therefore, requires South Africa to set up systems and institutional mechanisms for the implementation of the Convention.

As a country, we are expected to report to the UN on the implementation of the Convention. Provinces must report to national for the country report. Therefore, provinces need to have their systems in places.

We will ensure that our country honours all the National and International commitments and protocols such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women, Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Government’s Disability Strategy is designed to ensure that people with disabilities are supported to enable them, as far as possible, to lead full and independent lives, to reach their full potential as individuals and to participate fully in society.

This represents an important step forward in delivering the Government’s commitments to the full integration of people with disabilities in all aspects of society.

After the April 2009 National elections, our government further demonstrated its commitment to issues of disability by establishing a Ministry that will focus on addressing issues of women, children and persons with disabilities. We must now ensure that adequate resources are allocated to promote the interests of these targeted groups.

Programme Director, since 1994, the government has endeavoured to build an inclusive and socially cohesive, democratic society through a process of socio-economic and political transformation. The conference resolutions must thus build onto the progress made over the past 15 years.

We aim to establish effective institutional mechanisms for social and economic empowerment, equalization of opportunities and access to resources for persons with disabilities. We are going to work with other departments, Provincial and Local Government, Private sector, Municipalities, Labour and Civil Society, in mainstreaming issues of disability.

Programme director, persons with disabilities can contribute in a meaningful way to society, and many have demonstrated that capability. As individuals they wish to be treated like all citizens and have equal opportunities afforded to them.

Our Constitution guarantees all South Africa citizens the right to enjoy equal status, be fairly treated and have full access to both socio and economic opportunities. We must ensure that persons with disabilities are included into the mainstream of South African society and eradicate all the barriers that hamper the achievement of their full potential. We must emphasised that persons with disabilities must be integrated in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of the society.

To this end, we must implement stringent monitoring and evaluations systems to ensure that we keep the different sectors accountable for their indicators through sector-specific disability objectives and indicators, that will see departments and municipalities collaborating in providing quality services to persons with disabilities;

Failure to achieve these targets is not an option if we are to remain true to our vision of an inclusive South African society

Ladies and gentlemen, in most societies it is commonly found that people with disabilities live in poverty and are victims of discrimination, abuse, neglect and marginalisation. We must fight this anomaly with all our might to ensure adequate care, protection and support for people with disabilities.

We will continue to strive to achieve a better future for people with a disability through collaborative partnerships between non-government organisations and the community.

I am confident this conference will provide you an opportunity to share your collective experiences and come up with a decisive plan of action to take the programmes and plans of people with disabilities forward.

No one, no matter how determined they are, will succeed in holding you back from realising your goals and your dreams.

I wish you all a most successful conference and that all participants have a most enjoyable and informative experience.

I thank you

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