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SA: Cyril Ramaphosa: Address by South Africa's President, at the Summit on Economic Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities, Radisson Hotel Convention Centre, Ekurhuleni (08/12/2022)

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SA: Cyril Ramaphosa: Address by South Africa's President, at the Summit on Economic Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities, Radisson Hotel Convention Centre, Ekurhuleni (08/12/2022)

Image of President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

8th December 2022

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Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane,
Members of the Presidential Working Group on Disability,
Organisations of persons with disabilities,
Representatives of business and labour,
Representatives of institutions of higher learning,
Government officials,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
It is an honour to address this Summit on Economic Empowerment.
 
This summit gives effect to a resolution of a meeting of the Presidential Working Group in 2020.
 
It is a concern that we have not managed to fulfil our commitment to convene the Presidential Working Group on Disability at least once a year.
 
We are determined to correct this and to ensure that we intensify the work that must be done to advance the rights and improve the circumstances of persons with disabilities.
 
There was no better way to celebrate International Persons with Disabilities Day this past Saturday than to hear about the recipients of the global 2022 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards.
 
This year, among the six recipients of this award was Nkosinathi Freddy Ndlovu, a member of our Presidential Working Group on Disability.
 
This award is given to distinguished visionaries, role models and advocates making a profound impact within the disability community and beyond.
 
We extend our congratulations to Nkosinathi on a great achievement that recognises an exemplary contribution to our society.
 
We have just concluded Disability Rights Awareness Month.
 
Our national theme was “Empowering Persons with Disabilities through resourceful, sustainable and safe environments”.
 
This theme reflects the need to take an approach to development that mainstreams disability.
 
It calls for the effective implementation of policy frameworks to promote the unique needs, experiences and expertise of persons with disabilities.
 
Despite these progressive frameworks, persons with disabilities remain largely marginalised and excluded from meaningful participation in the social, political and economic spheres.
 
Since the location of responsibility for the rights of persons with disabilities was transferred from the Department of Social Development to the Presidency, there has been important progress to address these deficiencies.
 
Areas of focus include advancing communication methods and developing practical technological solutions for persons with disabilities.
 
To improve self-representation in decision-making, government has created a consultative platform through the National Disability Rights Machinery, provincial disability forums and representation in local government.
 
The Presidential Working Group on Disability works directly with the Presidency on consultation and mandates on legislation and policy.
 
As government, we have a responsibility to work with all social partners to empower persons with disabilities and improve their quality of life.
 
This is important for the advancement of a free and just society.
 
Our Constitution emphasises that everyone is equal before the law and has equal protection and benefit of the law.
 
No person, including the State and private companies, may unfairly discriminate against any person on grounds such as race, gender, belief, age or disability.
 
At a practical level, this means removing barriers that impede the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in all areas of public life.
 
It means that we need to address all the areas in which persons with disabilities face discrimination through, for example, increasing job and training opportunities, promoting inclusive education and ensuring access to health care services.
 
Critical to ensuring we empower and promote the rights of persons with disabilities is to prevent all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse.
 
This requires a concerted public awareness campaign to tackle prejudice and discrimination.
 
It means that our criminal justice system, public authorities and Chapter 9 institutions need to play a prominent role to ensure that persons with disabilities are safe, secure and treated with dignity.
 
As we observe 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, we are reminded that persons with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence.
 
We are reminded that they often do not receive the necessary psychosocial support and access to justice.
 
At the second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide held last month, there was great awareness of the specific vulnerabilities of persons with disabilities.
 
It was resolved that priority needs to be given to disability mainstreaming and inclusion in the criminal justice system.
 
It was resolved that there should be research on how GBV affects persons with disabilities and the socio-economic factors that impact on them.
 
A programme on accessible courts and police stations is being implemented to improve the access of persons with disabilities to justice.
 
As a society, our responsibility is not only to protect persons with disabilities from harm, but to ensure that they are able to realise their full potential and live lives of comfort, security and material well-being.
 
That is why we are holding this summit on economic empowerment.
 
This summit seeks to advance economic justice, to create opportunities for all people to achieve financial independence and reduce income inequality.
 
To exercise one’s economic rights, one must be able to actively and equally participate in economic activities.
 
One must have access to land, capital, infrastructure and decent work.
 
This cannot take place in isolation, but must be part of structural change in the economy that will unlock growth and allow for development.
 
Persons with disabilities must be involved in conceptualising, developing, implementing and monitoring economic development policies and programmes.
 
All social partners and participants in this summit need to work together to achieve certain outcomes.
 
These outcomes include the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability across the employment value chain, and that persons with disabilities have equal access to just and favourable conditions of work.
 
We need to work together to enable persons with disabilities to access technical and vocational guidance programmes, placement services and continuing training.
 
We must promote – in an active and deliberate manner – employment opportunities and career advancement for persons with disabilities.
 
This requires appropriate policies, which may include affirmative action programmes, incentives and other measures.
 
We also need to mobilise our collective resources – both public and private – to promote opportunities for self-employment, entrepreneurship and the development of cooperatives.
 
For its part, government has introduced targeted programmes on economic empowerment that include a procurement target of 7% for companies owned and run by persons with disabilities.
 
The conditions for economic empowerment must be created before individuals enter the labour market or look to start their own business.
 
We need to provide quality inclusive education for children with disabilities.
 
This entails improving and strengthening reasonable accommodation support measures for learners in both special and ordinary schools.
 
We must ensure that children with disabilities in ordinary schools have accessible learning materials no matter where the school is located.
 
The government has developed a process to review Education White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education towards developing full-service schools and inclusive methods in mainstream schools.
 
All children – including children with disabilities – need to receive a quality education wherever they are and whatever their circumstances.
 
Let us work together to build an inclusive and transformative society where the needs of all are advanced with equal priority and equitable resourcing.
 
Let us work to give practical meaning to the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’.
 
Let us emerge from this summit not only with a clear sense of what needs to be done to empower persons with disabilities for economic and financial inclusion, but also with a renewed determination to make it happen.
 
The success of this summit will be measured not by what we have achieved by the time it ends, but by what we achieve in the weeks and months and years to come.
 
I thank you.

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