The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (UP), is currently hosting the annual disability rights in Africa conference at Southern Sun Hotel, OR Tambo International Airport. More than 250 scholars, disability rights activists, lawyers, policymakers and self-advocates from various African countries are converging to exchange experiences and knowledge on the right of persons with disabilities to live in the community.
In his welcoming address, Commissioner Adv Bokankatla Joseph Malatji from the South African Human Rights Commission stated that the right to live in the community is about ‘enabling people to live their lives to the fullest within society.’ He emphasised that comprehensive de-institutionalisation strategies should be established which acknowledge the right to living independently in the community.
Dr Nkatha Murungi, Assistant Director of the Centre noted that the conference provides a platform for sharing experiences that will shape the discourse while providing an opportunity to learn from each other. Professor Elsabe Schoeman, the newly appointed Dean of the Faculty of Law at UP reminded participants that the aim of the conference is not only to provide a critical appraisal of the relevant laws, policies and practices, but to also make suggestions for reform. One of the suggestions made by Prof Frans Viljoen, the Centre’s Director, was to advocate for African states to ratify the African Disability Rights Protocol, which provides in article 14 for the right to live in the community.
The sessions on the first day were dedicated to discussing the meaning of the right to live in the community and addressing the right as it relates to persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. The final session was about the place of family and other caregivers in promoting the right to living in the community. The conference will continue today.
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