Movement fights for rights of people with disabilities

2017-09-06 06:00

Persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities who are passionate about mental health and human rights, and who are interested in becoming volunteer advocacy leaders in their community, are invited to get in touch with the South African Mental Health Advocacy Movement (Samham).

The call is made in an effort to advocate the movement’s objective towards a key source of awareness on mental health, with direct access to and in-depth knowledge about specific communities across South Africa.

This is, according to Sifiso Mkha­sibe, Samham project assistant, because of the reality that persons affected by these “invisible” disabilities play a crucial role in breaking down barriers by being empowered through actively engaging with the public and private sectors and expressing their concerns, needs and challenges and working together to overcome these.

Samham was established by the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) in 2007 in recognition of the importance of giving persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities a voice.

The movement further prides itself on its recognition as experts in mental health.

Therefore, they should remain key partners among all stakeholders within the mental health sector.

It continues to strive towards empowering people, with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, outside of the mental health field and within communities to participate in all levels of their lives.

It was further highlighted that the prevalent stigma attached to these disabilities continues to exist, both countrywide and worldwide.

This, according to Mkhasibe, creates barriers in accessing and enjoying all the rights enshrined in the South African Constitution’s Bill of Rights and other relevant policies and legislation, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Because of the personal experiences of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, these individuals and Samham have a multi-year strategy to develop an effective, representative national network of such persons at national, provincial and local levels, which is a process aimed at the ongoing empowerment of such persons and for raising awareness through contact-based education at community level across South Africa,” reads a statement from Samham.

“As part of this process, advocacy leaders are recruited across all nine provinces in South Africa, trained and remotely supported by SAFMH to continue advocacy work in their communities.”

Interested persons are invited to get in contact via email at info­@safmh.org.

The role of advocacy leaders involve:

  • Building a relationship with their community, especially those persons living with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.
  • Creating partnerships with stakeholders and service providers, inclu­ding clinic nursing staff and other non-governmental organisations in the disability or health sector.
  • Engaging persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities and provi­ding them with a platform to share their challenges, needs, views and opinions around topics related to mental health and human rights.
  • Participating in local events related to mental health to promote the rights of such persons.
  • Supporting existing advocacy groups or establishing advocacy groups where they do not exist.
  • Reporting human rights violations that occur in the community to SAFMH.

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