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Disability Organizations Push for Legal Protections

Groups for the disabled in Malawi are pushing for legislation to protect them from stigmatization and discrimination. Leading the fight is the Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA), which brings together several such groups. Executive Director Mussa Chiwaula says the disabled are hurt by the absence of an equal opportunity law to protect them, "For instance, when people are putting up some buildings, they don't follow the required standards. They just build anyhow because of there is no law that can be enforced to ensure that the structures are user friendly," he says.

Chiwaula also says there are no laws in the education system to protect disabled children, "But if there [were] a law, it means it becomes unlawful for any educational institution to refuse [education] any child with disability. And anybody who refuses that person [could be prosecuted]," he says.

NGOs have pressured the Malawi government to endorse equal opportunity policies for the disabled. They encourage equal participation of all Malawians in all sectors of life -- including social, political, economic and cultural activities. But Chiwaula says a policy without back-up legislation is meaningless. He says his organization has intensified efforts for the speedy enactment of the legislation, at least by the end of the year.