Ministry finalises Disability Equity Bill
SOCIAL Development Minister Molahlehi Letlotlo says there are in the process of finalising the Disability Equity Bill, ahead of its presentation to cabinet and parliament for its long-awaited passage into law.
Mr Letlotlo said this while officiating at the recent Lesotho National League of Visually Impaired Persons’ (LNLVIP) 30th anniversary celebrations which coincided with commemorations of the International White Cane Day at Mohloli-oa-Bophelo in Maseru. The white cane is an important mobility tool for the visually impaired.
He said stakeholders were expected to have given their input by the end of next month and “Thereafter, the bill will be put before the cabinet and the parliament so that it is passed into law to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Lesotho.”
Persons with disabilities in Lesotho continue to face multiple discrimination on a daily basis, from access to education, access to employment opportunities, access to justice and access to health services.
The challenges emanate from the current discriminatory legal, policy and social environment which fail to adequately recognise persons with disabilities as right holders.
Lesotho ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the 2nd of December 2008 and the enactment of the Disability Equity Bill is therefore crucial in creating the legal framework for the disabled to access their rights.
The bill comprises of an array of legal rights for persons with disabilities including rights of access to services including health, the provision of education and the creation of the Disability Advisory Council.
Minister Letlotlo also said the ministry had continued to work closely with LNLVIP to empower persons with disabilities (PWDs), specifically those with visual impairment over the years.
“It is a real pleasure that we are now celebrating this anniversary together with development partners who have been supporting this institution for the past 30 years,” Mr Letlotlo said, adding they started working together when the ministry was still the Department of Social Welfare.
He said the department assisted several people with disabilities including visually impaired people with cash and kind.
Mr Letlotlo said the ministry signed a tri-partite agreement with LNLVIP and the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted (NABP) for financial support for the Mohloli-oa-Bophelo Rehabilitation and Training Centre (MBTC), which is owned by LNLVIP.
“This institution empowers persons with visual impairment by providing vocational skills like candle-making, basket-making, sewing and knitting. It also provides other skills like computer literacy and Braille,” Mr Letlotlo said.
He also thanked NABP for its huge and long support for LNLVIP.
LNVLVIP President Ms Mabataung Khetsi said LNLVIP was established in 1986 by Basotho men and women who felt the need to rise against the marginalisation they experienced.
“The objective of the organisation is to improve self-reliance, promote, protect as well as advocate for the rights of visually impaired people.
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary and this means we are growing and achieving our goal,” Ms Khetsi said.
She also said many people with visual impairment still faced challenges that included rape and discrimination in many forms, adding, “So we urge government to help us by passing the Disability Equity Bill and the Marrakesh Treaty (of 2013 to facilitate access to published works by visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities)”.
She said as much they had registered progress there was a new challenge in that the numbers of visually impaired persons were increasing as reflected in the figures they got from their Eye Health Care Project.
“The rate of visual impairment is rapidly increasing but our rehabilitation centre accommodates a small number of trainees each year. We therefore appeal for government assistance so we can have a bigger place,” Ms Khetsi said.
She also revealed that the inclusive education project aimed at integrating visually impaired learners in ordinary schools had collapsed because it was no longer well supported by the government.