Malawi President Joyce Banda Pledges to Secure Advocacy and Action on Intellectual Disability from African Leaders

Published: 10 February 2014

Lilongwe, Malawi –10 February 2014Her Excellency President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi announced the African Leadership Alliance on Intellectual Disabilities to engage African governments, disability, development and health organizations and other stakeholders to secure human rights and social services for people with intellectual disabilities, one of the most marginalized and overlooked groups on the planet. 

People with disabilities, in particular those with intellectual disabilities, face discrimination, are often denied human rights and inclusion in their communities, and experience more poverty and worse outcomes in terms of health, education and employment, compared to the general population.   

The African Leadership Alliance on Intellectual Disability was announced at the African Leaders Forum on Disability co-hosted in Lilongwe today by President Banda and Special Olympics. African senior government officials, representatives of the world’s top disability, development and health organizations, Special Olympics athletes and Board Chairman Timothy P. Shriver, sports celebrities, and private sector representatives gathered to formulate how to best challenge the huge discrimination and exclusion faced by people with disabilities, especially those with intellectual disabilities. 

President Banda said, “There is something about the plight that faces individuals with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, that is compounded by an entrenched stigma that has endured, unjustly, for centuries and centuries. Before we can tackle the environment barriers that block our children from school, before we can address the lack of training of doctors that block our children from hospital, before we can strengthen the social policies that streamline family services, this stigma must become yesterday’s news.” 

President Banda also announced the Lilongwe Declaration, a formal framework to guide the program of action for the African Leaders Alliance on Intellectual Disabilities, and said it is constitutes a partnership between and among governments, private sector, civil society organizations and development partners.  The Lilongwe Declaration sets four priorities for advocacy and action: collecting sound data on people with intellectual disabilities and their lives; establishing specific, measurable and attainable goals concerning health, education, and inclusion; designing resource allocation models and targets to direct equitable shares of resources to those with intellectual disabilities; and securing broad multi-sectorial participation in these aims, through the African Leadership Alliance on Intellectual Disabilities. 

Mphatso Chiphwanya, a Special Olympics athlete since 2005 who sits on the Board of Special Olympics Malawi, said, “If I could say one thing to African leaders, it would be this: don’t leave the children behind. African children with intellectual disabilities are shunned and hidden. Bring them out, into the light of inclusion.”  

Special Olympics Chairman Shriver added, “No region of the world is doing enough for people with intellectual disabilities. Africa, with its emphasis on community and its peoples’ deep understanding of discrimination and deprivation, can be a leader in ensuring human rights, social services and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.  President Banda conceived the African Leadership Alliance as a means for Africa to be at the forefront of the global movement for inclusion.”

At the Forum, President Banda, Dr. Shriver, Peter Mazunda, Chairperson of Special Olympics Malawi, and Malawian Special Olympics athletes Innocent Chilongo, Mphatso Chiphwanya anChisomo Matenje signed a National Parternship Agreement between Special Olympics and the Republic of Malawi.

The African Leaders Forum on Disability brought together senior government officials from eleven African countries and chief executives or senior representatives from organizations such as the African Development Bank, the African Union, Catholic Relief Services, the Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Lions Clubs International, UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank.

The IFRC’s Under Secretary General and head of its delegation in Malawi, Matthias Schmale said that the outcome of the African Leadership Alliance on Intellectual Disability builds on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the African Decade of Disability. Mr Schmale also said that it reinforced the International Red Cross Movement’s Resolution Promoting Disability Inclusion, passed at its November 2013 statutory meetings in Sydney, Australia, by Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from 187 countries.

“We now must ensure concrete actions follow the words we agreed in Sydney by putting people with disabilities at the centre of our efforts to fight stigma and to promote their full inclusion into our disaster response and primary health work, said Mr Schmale.

The Forum called for Africa to take the lead in achieving inclusive global development and a world where no one is excluded because of disability, and we believe it will show true leadership in doing so”.

President Banda, leader of the small, democratic nation in Southeast Africa, has emerged as a champion for people with disabilities in Malawi. Special Olympics is a global organization and grassroots movement for sports, health, education and inclusion and is the largest organization in the world for people with intellectual disabilities.  

Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports every day around the world. Through work in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics addresses inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver training and competition opportunities in 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 70,000 events throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at  and read more about the African Leaders Forum on Disability at Engage with us on: Twitter@specialolympics;;, and