Find out more about the research project at blogs.exeter.ac.uk/disabilitynamibia/

Experts, politicians, charity leaders and activists join forces to discuss impact of religion and culture on the lives of people with disabilities in Namibia

Experts, politicians, charity leaders and activists met to discuss the impact of religion and culture on the lives of people with disabilities in Namibia.

The virtual workshop, held to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, is part of a new research project by academics in the UK and Africa.

Speakers at the event, on 3rd and 4th December 2020, included people with disabilities and representatives from charities, the Government of the Republic of Namibia, UN agencies and NGOs.

There were presentations about the Bible, the work of the church community and leaders, the impact local cultures have on people with disabilities, and how religion and culture can help to challenge stigma and discrimination.

The event was run by academics from theUniversity of Exeter and the University of Namibia. Their research is funded by a Global Challenges Research Fund grant through the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council. The study is being run in collaboration with the National Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia (NFPDN) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN).

Professor Louise Lawrence, from the University of Exeter, said: “We hope people in both countries can share their experiences. There is much people in the UK can learn about disability inclusion in Africa. We are examining the influence of religion and culture on experiences of, and attitudes to, people with disabilities in Namibia, an area on which there has been little research. This includes how biblical texts can be used to challenge discriminatory attitudes and promote inclusion.”

Dr Helen John, from the University of Exeter, said: “We hope that this event will bring together experience and expertise on disability in Namibia from various different perspectives and fields. This promises to offer a great learning experience for all of us. Our project as a whole aims to produce resources which will help people in both the UK and Southern Africa to think about inclusion in a different way.”

During the event Daniel Trum, Chairperson of the National Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia, led a roundtable discussion on disability experiences, statistics and activism. There was a keynote address by Honourable Alexia Manombe-Ncube, Deputy Minister: Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, responsible for Disability Affairs, in the Presidency of the Republic of Namibia.

Professor Charlene Van Der Walt, from KwaZulu-Natal, discussed how the Bible can be used to tackle marginalisation through an approach called Contextual Bible Study, and her research on disability and gender in South Africa.

Dr Cynthy Haihambo, from UNAM, presented her research on disability and culture in Southern African contexts.

Dr Elina Amadhila and Professor Gert Van Rooy, from UNAM, discussed how religious and cultural impacts relate to health and development.

There was a roundtable discussion on how to promote inclusivity, with Dr Aune Victor from UNICEF, Natasha Maritz, from UNDP, and Loide Amkongo, from UNFPA.

Dr Sinenhlanhla Chisale, from Midlands State University, Zimbabwe, presented her research on disability in Zimbabwe. Dr Masauso Chirwa, from the University of Zambia, presented his research on disability in Zambia.

Date: 4 December 2020

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