A CALL has been made to prioritise empowering, educating and capacitating Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in rural areas to ensure their meaningful inclusion in society.
This was said by Lesotho National Federation of Organizations of the Disabled (LNFOD) Vice-Chairperson Limpho Rakoto on Thursday during the closing ceremony of a three-year European Union-funded (EU) project to enhance service delivery for PWDs.
Titled “Empowering Rural Persons with Disabilities for Seeking their Entitlements”, the project was implemented by LNFOD as part of the EU and German government-funded “Deepening Decentralisation and Non-State Actors programme” (DDNSA).
Among the project’s objectives was enhancing accountability and service delivery of local governments to PWDs by increasing grassroots advocacy efforts among groups and individuals with disabilities in the project areas. It was implemented at community councils in four districts namely Butha-Buthe, Berea, Mohale’s Hoek and Maseru.
During the project, about 5 000 PWDs were sensitised on their rights with 900 of them afforded an opportunity to take part in food-for-work initiatives.
Ms Limpho Rakoto said without the EU’s support, the project would not have been implemented.
“This is indicative of the common goal shared by the government of Lesotho and the EU towards the meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspect of development such as this one,” Ms Rakoto said.
“Based on the foregoing, I strongly believe that EU financial support to LNFOD and its member organisations for the implementation of this initiative is just the beginning of the journey towards the full realisation of the rights of people with disabilities in Lesotho.”
She said the implementation of the project had enabled PWDs to hold their local governments accountable in terms of service delivery and providing them an opportunity to voice their concerns.
In his remarks, EU Ambassador to Lesotho Dr Michael Doyle, said the project was part of the bloc’s multipronged support for the decentralisation process at both central and local levels.
“This project implemented by LNFOD forms part of the two legs of the DDNSA, which included a component of partnership with civil society that also benefitted three other grantees: Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, the Lesotho Council of NGOs and Send a Cow – for a total of about €3 million, equivalent to approximately M45 million,” he said.
“DDNSA is a €13.36 million programme funded under the 10th European Development Fund with co-financing from the German government and the United Nations.”
Dr Doyle said the project implementation began in 2012 as part of a decentralisation drive by Lesotho’s development partners.
“The whole idea of decentralisation is very important to us in Europe, where we apply the principle of subsidiaries, meaning bringing the responsibility of providing services to the people at the lowest level of government,” Dr Doyle said, adding it also meant enhancing participation and accountability.
“As part of these efforts, in 2013, the EU concluded a call for proposals process by signing project contracts with the four civil society organizations already mentioned, with the twin aims of complementing efforts of the government in service delivery and promoting dialogue for a more responsive and accountable system of local governance.”
He said LNFOD received €228 369 to implement the project.
“The aim of this project undertaken by LNFOD was to promote inclusion of PWDs in community decision-making structures. Its main target was PWDs’ families and communities, as well as local government structures including area chiefs, and councillors,” Dr Doyle added.