New York, NY - September 24, 2013 - Her Excellency, President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi, a vocal champion of the rights and protections of those with intellectual disabilities, announced today that she will host the first-ever African Leaders Forum on Intellectual Disability in partnership with Special Olympics in February 2014 in Lilongwe, Malawi. The commitment is a result of her participation at the Global Development Summit at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Korea. President Banda made the official announcement at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, on a panel shared by Special Olympics Chairman Dr. Timothy P. Shriver. Prior to the panel at CGI, President Banda met briefly with Dr. Shriver, as well as CGI Founding Sponsor Tom Golisano, whose Golisano Foundation supports the Special Olympics global health initiative Healthy Communities , active throughout Malawi. The meeting served as an opportunity to share recent highlights and future plans for the initiative in Malawi and throughout the continent.
"Malawi has approximately 400,000 people with intellectual disabilities. In many cultures throughout Africa, stereotypes, entrenched stigma and misunderstandings about intellectual disabilities exist and the effects are devastating, with many people with disabilities experiencing severe social isolation and suffering from neglect, abuse and violence," said President Banda. "It is our moral obligation to turn the tide from intolerance and inaction to foster understanding and make real commitments to influence change. I look forward to engaging my nation, Malawi, and indeed the entire continent, to join me in developing a results-driven, inclusive approach to improving the plight of our children and adults with intellectual disabilities."
In support of the Malawian National Disability Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), President Banda will work in partnership with Special Olympics, civil society and key development organizations, to encourage all African countries to integrate people with intellectual disabilities fully into their communities, and into development strategies pursued by African governmental, development and civil society organizations.
To begin the transformation within Malawi, the Malawian government has committed to forming a national partnership with Special Olympics Malawi. Special Olympics Malawi currently supports more than 5000 athletes and welcomes the support from government.
"President Banda has shown a strong commitment in the leadership of developing an inclusive Africa. In her first 100 days in office, she passed the Malawi Disability Act, mandating in law the rights of people with intellectual disabilities," said Timothy Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics. " The creation of the first-ever African Leaders Forum on Intellectual Disability is a critical next step in advocating for change at the highest level and ensuring the more than 90% of children with intellectual disabilities in Africa and the developing world aren't denied the right to education and other services."
The two-day forum will call upon Heads of State, national governments, development organizations, scholars and industry leaders from throughout Africa to join Malawi in achieving full social integration of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The forum is designed to foster interaction and collaboration between these leaders and key stakeholders from civil society, development agencies and business organizations to identify best practices - in the areas of sports, health, education, early childhood development and public awareness - that can be implemented and brought to scale at the local and national levels. Four high-level deliverables expected from the forum include:
1) Securing commitment for the creation of an influential coalition of African government and development leaders committed to measurable progress in advancing the rights and protections of those with intellectual disabilities as part of the post 2015 Millenium Development Goal (MDG) framework;
2) Creating a replicable public awareness campaign that fosters increased understanding and acceptance of individuals with intellectual disabilities in Malawi, while generating significant awaress throughout Africa and among key development actors, funders and stakeholders on the needs of those with intellectual disabilities;
3) Highlighting the recent UNICEF State of the World's Children
Report, focused on children with disabilities, and exploring solutions to address the challenges facing Africa's most vulnerable children;
4) Stimulate the creation of new Special Olympics programs to support individuals with intellectual disabilities through sports, health and education programming.
President Banda added, "I chose to make this announcement at this year's CGI Annual Meeting, where the theme is 'Mobilizing for Impact,' where world leaders are convening to explore strategies to determine how to best mobilize the right entities to create sustainable success in their organizations and environments. I'm mobilizing our African leaders to foster interaction and identify best practices in helping to both eliminate stigma and empower people with disabilities to live healthy and productive lives."
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About President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi
Her Excellency, President Joyce Banda has been the President of Malawi since 7 April 2012. She is the founder and leader of the People's Party, created in 2011. An educator and grassroots women's rights activist, she was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009 and Vice President of Malawi from May 2009 to April 2012. Banda took office as president following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. She is Malawi's fourth president and its first female president. Before becoming president, she served as the country's first female vice president. She was a Member of Parliament and Minister for Gender, Children's Affairs and Community Services. Before her active career in politics she was the founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation, founder of the National Association of Business Women (NABW), Young Women Leaders Network and the Hunger Project. Forbes named President Banda as the 71st most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful woman in Africa. President Banda has a Cambridge School Certificate, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education from Columbus University , a Bachelor of Social Studies in Gender Studies from the Atlantic International University, USA and a Diploma in Management of NGOs from the International Labour Organization (ILO) Centre in Turin, Italy. Currently, she is reading for a Master of Arts Degree in Leadership at Royal Roads University in Canada. She also received an honorary doctorate in 2013 from Jeonju University in Korea.
About the Clinton Global Initiative
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which have improved the lives of over 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at more than $73.1 billion.
The CGI Annual Meeting is held each September in New York City. CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting devoted to economic recovery and job creation in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which hosts an annual meeting for undergraduate and graduate students who are developing commitments in their communities and around the world. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports everyday around the world. Through work in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Healthy Athletes is the primary health-related program for Special Olympics, providing free health screenings to athletes with intellectual disabilities in seven different areas -- (vision, hearing, oral health, healthy lifestyles, general fitness, podiatry, and sports physicals). Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly four million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 53,000 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.