Disability Africa is not a political organisation but we find ourselves increasingly making statements which sound political. The fact is that the world is in a funny place right now. Attitudes are surfacing which frankly cause dismay and we find ourselves required to take an unequivocal stance. In a world where hate crime is on the rise, out and out lies pass for legitimate political discourse and, let’s face it, a fascist with a penchant for divisive ‘tabloid headline’ politics has just been elected to the White House. In these times we feel the need to say something. You see, we may not be political, but we are advocates for inclusion and we must oppose those who seek to fracture communities by lying about minorities and turning them into scapegoats in order to cynically exploit decent people who are vulnerable, angry and fearful.
These practices and ideas directly oppose our position that inclusion is good. Inclusion is civilising, evolutionary and life-supporting. It requires us to be compassionate, accepting of difference, caring and generous. A family or community or country or world in which these values predominate is obviously better for us collectively and as individuals. This is a vital point – inclusion may seem to be about benefitting an excluded minority, but this is a very thin and shallow understanding of inclusion. Inclusive societies benefit everyone in that society, by definition and in practice.
You can read more about our ideas around inclusion here but in this article, I want to explain why inclusion is the foundation of all that Disability Africa is and does and why a charity which ostensibly helps disabled children in Africa is right to get exercised about the emergence of the so-called alt-right.
Five years ago we started with this idea that inclusion is a good thing. From that idea arose the question, “What do you have to practically do to bring about an inclusive world?” Well, the first thing to notice is that Inclusion is a ‘consciousness thing’. That is to say, it must first occur in the minds of humans before it can become manifest. So one crucial step to create inclusion is to get it into people’s heads – to talk about it, share the idea and hopefully change attitudes from being ‘exclusive’ to being inclusive. That also means we must challenge ideas which oppose inclusion. But talking and sharing ideas alone wouldn’t mean a great deal if it wasn’t put into practice and so the next question came, “How do you practically go about making a community inclusive?”
The answer to that question was the foundation for Disability Africa.
We reasoned that if you could identify the most disenfranchised group in any community and then take the necessary steps to ensure that those people were truly included within that community, then you would, by default, have taken the steps to include everyone. (In rather the same way that you won’t if, like the present UK government, you seek to target the ‘Just About Managing’ – what about those who are Far From Managing?)
Who are the most disenfranchised in any community? Well, children tend to have less power, presence, voice and therefore less influence than adults, so our client group is probably drawn from children – and of the children of the world, where are they the most under-served, the most un-heard and the most powerless? This situation is experienced by children all over the globe but certainly nowhere are conditions worse for children than those found in many parts of the African continent. And of those children in African countries who are the most disadvantaged? Surely we can agree that children with physical, sensory and intellectual impairments (let us also include those with mental health problems); these must be the most disadvantaged humans on our planet.
And so Disability Africa came about as a strategy, a movement for inclusion. We would work in African communities to raise awareness of the rights and needs of disabled children and develop services to meet those needs. In so doing, we would create inclusive communities for the benefit of everyone in that community. If we can develop a model to benefit the most isolated and deprived people in the poorest places on the planet and if that model can be replicated, then it seems to us, we have a practical, deliverable strategy to create inclusion anywhere and everywhere. At first glance we seem to be all about improving outcomes for disabled young people in African countries and we do that - but we do it to promote the thinking and actions for an inclusive world. We model a template for inclusion of the most disenfranchised as a practical way to create inclusion for everyone - for everywhere - to create inclusion not just for disabled children in Africa but for all minorities everywhere and for the benefit of everyone.
We believe passionately that being inclusive and promoting inclusion civilises all of us who take part.
On our website “How you can help” page, we have a line which says “Join your voice with ours.” We would like to repeat that call at this time especially. We would like to invite anyone for whom these ideas resonate to join our Movement for Inclusion. Let us be together in our resolve to create a more civilised, inclusive world. Let ours be the voices and actions that truly leave no-one behind.