Provisions on Economic Empowerment

Persons with disabilities suffer from discrimination throughout the world and are frequently excluded from social, economic and political processes in their societies. Disability was long considered an individual problem that was treated from a medical and charitable viewpoint, but neglected in terms of equal rights for persons with disabilities. Attention is now turning towards the impact of the legislation on employment opportunities for people with disabilities as well as on economic empowerment. This question is central to the broader social and political rights of persons with disabilities, which are closely linked to their economic empowerment.

The goal of inclusive development is to enable all people to have equal opportunities when it comes to partaking in the economic and social lives of their communities. The socio-economic integration of persons with disabilities is not just a question of their right to participation; it is also a prerequisite for broad-based and sustainable pro-poor growth. According to a World Bank study in 2000, the annual loss in global GNP due to the large number of unemployed disabled persons is estimated to be between 1.37 and 1.95 billion U.S. dollars.

Recognising the crucial link between equity, disability, and poverty, in 2002, the World Bank embarked on mainstreaming disability into Bank operations and analysis. In 2006, the UN adopted the International Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and many governments and international development agencies are turning their attention to the goal of including persons with disabilities in development. The International Labour Organization (ILO) promotes meaningful and gainful employment under conditions of freedom and equality for all men and women with its decent work concept. In this framework, it is also committed to the rights and concerns of persons with disabilities and supporting their socio-economic integration. As shown by an ILO study in 31 countries, persons with disabilities have so far hardly been involved at all in the design of national development programmes and frameworks.

Furthermore, income-generating measures are used to promote the social and economic independence of persons with disabilities, with a view of strengthening their societal participation and helping them to realize their right to a decent standard of living and economic status.

In Malawi, according to the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities Bill, the Government is obliged to recognize the importance of empowering persons with disabilities economically, without any form of discrimination. As such, under section 32 the Government shall ensure that persons with disabilities access technical, vocational and entrepreneurial training opportunities; loans and credit facilities for income generating activities; and open and self employment opportunities.

Any person who contravenes the above provisions shall be guilty of an offence and liable, in the case of an individual, to a fine of K100, 000.00 and to imprisonment for five years; or in the case of a body corporate, to a fine of one million Kwacha; or any other measure the court may deem appropriate to redress the situation.