As the world observed International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is on the verge of celebrating a landmark achievement. Before the end of this year, parliament is scheduled to pass the Disability Equity Bill, a law that promotes and protects the rights of Basotho with disabilities, who make up an estimated 2.5% of the population.
For the World Bank, the new law will represent a significant advance for Lesotho’s social inclusion agenda. In summer 2018, the World Bank announced its 10 commitments to accelerate global action for disability-inclusive development,. The Bank has also partnered with USAID to establish the Disability-Inclusive Education in Africa Program Trust Fund, which has provided support to the Lesotho Education Quality for Equality Project. This trust fund aims to build on Lesotho’s new inclusive education policy by developing a model of inclusive education for the entire country starting with a pilot program in six schools.
Also, the World Bank is currently developing a study to explore the specific barriers to the inclusion of women and youth across the country. This Gender and Youth Inclusion analysis, which will be completed next year, sets out to assess how intersecting biases such as disability lead to these vulnerable groups’ social and economic exclusion.
The Disability Equity Bill builds on the previous work that the Kingdom of Lesotho has achieved on this issue. In 2008, it became the 42nd country to ratify the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In 2017, this commitment turned into concrete action when the country’s Constitutional Court repealed section 219 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of 1981, which denied people with intellectual disability the right to testifying in court. This year’s Disability Equity Bill mandates the domestication of the CRPD and implementation of the rights protected by the Convention.
Going forward, progress in three areas will be important to advancing the World Bank’s 10 commitments in Lesotho. First, having better information about the types of disability in the country is critical. Currently, the shortcoming in disaggregated data makes it challenging for social development programs to reach out to the most vulnerable groups and at times also leads to duplication of grants. The government has already begun taking steps to through the 2016 census and the National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA), the country’s most extensive data collection project. Second, boosting employment opportunities for young people living with disabilities and third, providing appropriate prevention and response services in relation to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse of persons with disabilities, will further help Lesotho reach its inclusion goals.
The World Bank looks forward to the passing of the Disability Equity Bill and providing support to the Kingdom of Lesotho in advancing its inclusion agenda so Basotho with disabilities can reach their full potential.