The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD, is an international agreement that talks about the rights that people with disability should have – including people with intellectual disabilities.

The CRPD also tells countries how to make sure those rights are respected.

Many countries and organisations write reports to tell the UN about how countries are doing in respecting the rights that the CRPD talks about. This means writing about what a country is doing well and where a country needs improvement. 

What is Parallel Reporting?

Countries tell the UN how they’re doing on disability rights, but disability organisations can also write and submit their own “parallel reports.” 

It is sometimes called the ‘ alternative report’ or ‘ shadow report’.

These reports show areas where people with disabilities might still be facing challenges.

It is important that self-advocates are part of parallel reporting. 

Pelekelo Kabanda and Ruth Chihana are self-advocates from the Friendly Barn Development Foundation, Inclusion International’s member in Zambia. They helped write Zambia’s parallel report.

Pelekelo also travelled to Geneva in Switzerland to present their report to the CRPD Committee at the United Nations.

We recently had the chance to interview the two self-advocates to hear about their story and the challenges they faced while presenting Zambia’s issues. 

Self-Advocates Speak Up on Parallel Reporting

Pelekelo and Ruth both said they faced challenges when they tried to join in writing their country’s CRPD parallel report. The process was not made accessible for them to be involved. 

Things began to change when Inclusion International worked with the local self-advocates to improve the process.

Inclusion International self-advocate Mark Mapemba went to Zambia in 2023 to train the disability organisations in Zambia working on the parallel report using the ‘Listen Include Respect’ guidelines.

This was alongside the International Disability Alliance (IDA) who delivered training about the parallel reporting process.

“We had training by Inclusion International and Mr. Amos was then very helpful at teaching us about the CRPD with easy read versions. This is very helpful for people with intellectual disabilities to understand. It was also good to be around other organisations and express myself,” said Ruth Chihana

Inclusion International and IDA continued to support Pelekelo and Amos, Executive Director of Friendly Barn Development Foundation to recently attend Geneva in March 2024 to present to the CRPD Committee. This was important for Pelekelo to speak up on behalf of self-advocates in Zambia.

People with intellectual disability are discriminated against because people think we can’t do things like other people do them. But we are not that different, we have the capability to do things like go to school.

Pelekelo Kabanda, Self-Advocate, Zambia

Pelekelo said with Amos’ support on the day she was proud to give a strong presentation to the CRPD Committee and answered questions from the Committee

The experience motivated both Pelekelo and Ruth and helped them understand their rights under the CRPD. However, it was still challenging being the only self-advocates fully involved.

Looking ahead, Pelekelo and Ruth want self-advocates to have more opportunities to identify issues and be included from the beginning for future parallel reports.

They believe organisations should make efforts to truly include people with intellectual disabilities at every stage of the parallel reporting process.

Speaking to other self-advocates that want to get involved in the process, Pelekelo shared, “Disability is not inability, you have the power and you have the strength to do it.”

“People with intellectual disability are discriminated against because people think we can’t do things like other people do them. But we are not that different, we have the capability to do things like go to school.”

Pelekelo and Ruth’s work speaking up for themselves and the progress of Zambia was important in showing the CRPD Committee the progress still needed in Zambia.

Through their contributions, the Committee noted that groups that face discrimination including those with intellectual disabilities continue to be excluded in Zambia.

What Inclusion International Members Can Do:

  • Get Involved in the Parallel Reporting Process: Inclusion International members should reach out to Fayel or Manel to see how they can participate fully in developing CRPD parallel reports for their countries
  • Use Easy Read: Take advantage of the plain language versions of the CRPD that people with intellectual disabilities can use.
  • Listen to Self-Advocates: People with intellectual disabilities should work with you to write the reports and speak out for their own needs. Follow the Listen Include Respect guidelines to ensure you are doing what you need to do to make sure people with intellectual disabilties are fully involved.
  • Training and Support: Even strong self-advocates need to learn about the CRPD and how to write these reports. Keep supporting them and involving them in the process.
  • Resources: We are also currently creating a Toolkit about the parallel reporting process. We will share with Inclusion International members when this is ready.