ILO Conference on "People with intellectual disabilities: Opening pathways to training and employment in the African region"

In Africa, some 10 to 15 million people have an intellectual disability. Because of stigma and discrimination, a majority are excluded from education, training and employment and live in poverty and isolation. To help meet the challenge of more equitable access to vocational training and employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, the ILO-Irish Aid Partnership Programme organized a sub-regional conference in Lusaka, Zambia in early March on the issue.

The three-day conference was also historic in that it brought together representatives of governments, employers, trade unions and disability advocates from East African countries, Australia and the United Kingdom to examine what is possible for persons with intellectual disabilities and offer recommendations so that they are able to move forward to improve their lives in all countries. A key element of the conference was the participation of people with intellectual disabilities, which allowed for their voices to be heard.

One particular successful outcome was the Lusaka Declaration on People with Intellectual Disabilities: Achieving Full participation in Training and Employment. The Declaration is a set of recommendations by conference participants that spells out concrete actions to be undertaken by government, employers and their organizations, trade unions, and non-governmental organizations and parents’ groups in the disability field. It collectively affirms the vision and values for people with intellectual disabilities and provides a framework for action in the years to come.