IT is encouraging to see the Patriotic Front leadership make good on the pledge to leave no on behind by also engaging persons with disability.
This being an election year, those aspiring to take up political offices will do what it it takes to win a vote and most interest groups are aware that this is an auspicious time to lobby for support.
Reports coming out of the Copperbelt indicate that a grouping of persons living with disabilities have taken aspiring candidates to task, specifically calling to be included in the empowerment schemes currently being implemented by the PF.
ZANIS reports that some people living with disabilities have complained of not benefiting from the current empowerment programmes being rolled out across the country.
Watch Your Life Movement (WYLM), a non-governmental organisation said the physically challenged persons want to be part and parcel of the national development citing that most post persons with disability have been left out from most empowerment programmes in country.
WYLM Copperbelt Chairperson Steven Nkomeni said a lot of people living with disabilities had been left out on the empowerment programmes which has contributed to them not being economically independent.
The 2010 Census Statistics Report indicated that there were 251,427 persons with disabilities in Zambia. However preliminary results from the national disability survey undertaken by the Central Statistical Office in 2015, indicated a 7.2 % prevalence rate translating into 1,080,000 persons with disabilities in Zambia.
Mr Nkomeni said the physically challenged persons feel they can be economically independent when they are considered in empowerment programmes rolled out by relevant authorities.
He said this when people living with disabilities met some Patriotic Front (PF) aspiring candidates in Ndola to discuss the role they would play to uplift the wellbeing of disabled people.
He said the physically challenged people have observed that able bodied youths, women and church members are being empowered but there were no plans for the disabled.
Mr Nkomeni urged all aspirants to ensure that once they were in Parliament they should inform the house that their group has being left out and ensure that they lobbing empowerment for them.
“When these issues are brought to the communities we are not even consulted, we have been left out, we do not have economic independence we are still struggling,” he said.
He said once the disabled were given start up capitals, the number of persons with disability begging for alms in the streets would reduce as they would become economically independent.
Indeed, most persons with disabilities are pushed into begging as a means of raising money.
It is an affront to their dignity and given an opportunity they would prefer to take up a skill that could result in a regular income.
Of course, this requires funding and skills training, which is something that an empowerment scheme could easily provide.
Last month, Born Short Living Tall (BSLT) insisted that time had come for differently abled persons to represent their own interests at the National Assembly.
Born Short Living Tall executive director Ntalasha Chisha said economic opportunities, education and social life are are hampered due to lack of reprsentation in the higher organs of power.
“May we be quick to state that Zambia is on progressive process of ensuring that people who are differently abled are incorporated in the governance system of the nation, and that is why there is need for all stakeholders to pull together in one direction and ensure Article 29 on the Rights with people who are living with disabilities which states that governments should encourage people with disabilities to stand for elections and get involved in politics becomes a reality in this election,” Chisha said.
“We have observed that no one can address the challenges of differently abled persons apart from the people affected. Let us be on the right side of history by fighting for people who are differently abled and ensuring that we implement the right policies of equality and inclusiveness.”
This is the best time for politicians to make the right choice and ensure that no one is left behind.
Meanwhile, Chifubu Constituency aspiring candidate Kondwani Wina assured that once adopted and eventually elected he will advocated for free education and health care service for the physically challenged people.
And Ndola Central aspirant Joseph Chilinda assured that once adopted he would ensure that disabled were engaged to see how best they could be helped adding that dialogue would be the only solution to the challenges they were facing.
These promises should not be thrown to the wind on August 13 but should instead influence long term and assured support to enhance the quality of life for persons living with disability.