Inclusion International is working with our members to help people with intellectual disabilities across Southern Africa become strong self-advocates.

What is this Project?

Supported by a grant from the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this project aims to support people with intellectual disabilities to advocate for their rights.

Self-advocates are people with intellectual disabilities who speak up for themselves about the things that are important to them.

The goals of the project include:

  • Supporting the growth of new self-advocacy groups.
  • Strengthening regional networks of self-advocates.

Why does self-Advocacy matter in Africa?

Self-advocacy is vital because it gives people with intellectual disabilities a platform to:

  • Speak out on issues.
  • Break down stereotypes and discrimination.
  • Influence governments and decision-making.
  • Build stronger, more inclusive communities.

In Africa, this means challenging attitudes and demanding equal rights in all aspects of life, while making sure self-advocate voices are heard in the decisions that affect them.

Building the Path for Self-Advocacy in Zambia and Angola

An important part of the project has been the ‘Empower Us‘ programme.

The programme gives strong skills to those new to self-advocacy. The trainings were designed by self-advocates, for self-advocates.

In 2023, the programme ran in Zambia and Angola, supporting self-advocates to create advocacy plans and lead activities to advance their rights.

The groups were formed with the support of Inclusion International members, Friendly Barn Development Foundation in Zambia and Apegada in Angola.

The project benefits from the support of a regional self-advocacy expert, Mark Mapemba, who provides guidance to the new groups. He works as the project’s Project Manager.

Our goal was to build strong self-advocacy groups, and I’m happy to report that after our training, both groups are advocating effectively.

Mark Mapemba, Project Manager, Inclusion International

Here’s what Mark said about how the project is doing and why it matter:

“I’m Mark Mapemba from Malawi, and I work as a Project Manager with Inclusion International. An important part of our work is supporting self-advocates.”

“We’re currently working with groups in Zambia and Angola. Our goal was to build strong self-advocacy groups, and I’m happy to report that after our training, both groups are advocating effectively.”

Mark concluded, “Both the groups and the organisations they work with with have learned a lot.  For example, in Zambia, they now have staff members who are self-advocates.”

Importantly, the organisations are not just hiring self-advocates. They have been trained with the Listen Include Respect guidelines.

The Listen Include Respect guidelines help organisations understand what they need to do to make sure people with intellectual disabilities are included in their work.

Building the Network in Nairobi

The project works in close partnership with Inclusion Africa

In December 2023, Inclusion Africa hosted an event in Nairobi where self-advocates from across Africa gathered to plan their own strategy for a stronger self-advocacy movement.

Self-advocates from 10 African countries convened to share experiences and develop a regional self-advocacy strategy. 

The workshop identified shared challenges and set goals for the group. 

The self-advocates even wrote a story about what the network will look like in 10 years, providing a vision to work towards:

In 10 years, self-advocates at Inclusion Africa are the strongest in the world. Many self-advocates are strong – we have knowledge and speak up, and we have created awareness. We work hard. We have a very strong team and our voices are heard in other platforms for a good impact. We work together and bring new ideas into the network which are respected.

We have enough guidance from Inclusion Africa about self-advocacy, the family, and the community. We are involved in rights and decision-making. There is a big network of self-advocates that are connected and working together.

We are speaking one language and recognized all over the world. Everyone motivates each other, we share ideas, and we stand up and they hear us and walk with us. In each country there are strong self-advocate networks. We have strong leaders at the regional level who made a community, which helped us build a movement. Self-advocates are studying and get certificates so they have job opportunities.

We have an office and a bus to do our work, which our governments helped us to get. We have our self-advocate network present in every country in Africa.

Self-Advocates’ story: the future of self-advocacy in Africa.

This is their vision for the future of self-advocacy in Africa.

The Road Ahead for the Project in 2024

  • Regular support from experts: Supporting and monitoring the progress of self-advocacy groups.
  • Advocacy: Self-advocates will keep fighting for their rights in their country, and the project will learning from the work self-advocates are doing.
  • Regional events: Working with Inclusion Africa to bring self-advocates together for events, helping to grow the network.
  • Sharing what works: Collecting and writing about what self-advocates in Zambia and Angola learned to share the lessons around the world.