Uniting Nations: Breaking Stigma Through Para Sports and Assistive Technology in Malawi
Para athletes during a track session in Malawi
Malawi is taking a bold step towards breaking down stigma and promoting the use of assistive technology (AT) for people with disabilities. Through the innovative AT2030 "Para Sport Against Stigma" program, led by Loughborough University London (LUL), in partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the University of Malawi, the country is leveraging the power of sports to create a more inclusive and equitable society.
In the vibrant heart of Africa, Malawi is undergoing a transformational journey, not only in the realm of sports but also in societal perceptions and access to assistive technology (AT) for individuals with disabilities. The convergence of innovative initiatives like the Malawi Country Capacity Assessment (CCA) and the groundbreaking Para Sport Against Stigma (PSAS) project is rewriting the narrative of inclusion and empowerment.
A Paradigm Shift: From Assessment to Action
The CCA toolkit, a collaborative effort by WHO, GDI Hub, CHAI, and UCL, has paved the way for a comprehensive understanding of Malawi’s landscape concerning AT. Its implementation has not only facilitated data collection but also ignited a fire for progress in AT access for the disabled community. This assessment laid the groundwork for subsequent endeavors, acting as a catalyst for change rather than just a repository of statistics.
Para Sport Against Stigma (PSAS): Championing Change Through Para Sports
PSAS stands tall as a beacon of hope and progress with a clear mission: to tackle stigma head-on and create a level playing field in the world of Para Sport. The project’s objectives include:
- Smash Stereotypes.
- Inspire Inclusion.
- Change Perspectives.
- Advocate for Equal Opportunities and to
- Celebrate abilities instead of focusing on limitations.
In the words of James Chuitsi, President of the Malawi National Paralympic Committee, “Disability is not inability.”
With a multi-faceted approach encompassing education, athlete development, Paralympic broadcasting, and action research (e.g., Evidence brief on engaging communities in Para sport in Malawi), this initiative embodies a holistic strategy to dismantle the stigma attached to living with a disability. Partnerships with entities like the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Malawi Paralympic Committee (MPC), business sector and government have fortified its reach and impact, such that the MPC hosted the first ever Malawi National Paralympic games on July 27, 2023, at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe (see Special Report)