My name is Mark Mapemba. I am a self-advocate from Malawi. I work closely with organisations in Malawi, with Inclusion Africa and with Inclusion International.

Inclusion International and Inclusion Africa have worked on a project called Inclusion Matters.

As part of the Inclusion Matters project I visited self-advocacy groups in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Ghana.

One of the goals of the project was to empower self-advocates on their human rights and help them to understand how to advocate.

In 2022 I visited each country to meet the self-advocates.

Before I visited them, we had Empower Us Zoom training in 2021 and in 2022 led by myself and other members of the Empower Us team in Africa. We did 4 days of training overall for each country, on topics like human rights, the CRPD and how to advocate. It was a lot of work but it was good to meet so many self-advocates.

Self-advocates in Rwanda taking part in online Empower Us training

Then we visited them towards the end of the project so that we should follow up on what they doing after the training and to find out if they needed any more support.

The overall feedback from the project was positive. Self-advocates shared that they felt more confident following the self-advocacy activities that they had been a part of in the project. We hear this from all three country’s. In Ghana self advocate shared  that now they are able to advocate in their communities for themselves and for their friends. This was the same in Ethiopia.  It was so nice to know that the have learned many things from the project.

In Rwanda it was nice to hear that self advocate can now do things for their own.

Through this project, I found my voice. I am a confident woman. My voice is heard in my family and community” .

Shemusa Jradukunda, Rwanda

In Ethiopia self advocates also do artwork at their organisations and sell them. They also have a dancing group.

In Rwanda the group told us that they do advocacy in their community to make sure children with intellectual disabilities are able to go to school.    

After I visited all three countries. I can say the project has changed a lot of things to the self-advocates. They are more independent, they know how to advocate and speak up. Let me say we have built up strong self advocate leaders.

Self-advocates in Ghana after a meeting.

From this project, 2 self-advocates from Rwanda have joined the board of their organisation, in Ethiopia one of the self-advocates is employed by his organisation to be a coordinator of self-advocacy work and one self-advocate from Ghana has become the Vice President of Inclusion Africa.

If we can have many more trainings like this in each country in Africa we can have more active self advocates and I can see good future for our self-advocacy network and countries working together.