Friday, April 17, 2015

Inclusive Development - Disability and International Development

The Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals have been at the forefront of development debates ever since they were set by the United Nations in 2000. All the world’s countries agreed upon eight development goals, which range from halving poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education. Meeting the needs of the world’s poorest being their ultimate goal. With the goals to be met by 2015, the end is fast approaching. Academics, politicians and other international development actors have therefore been evaluating what progress has been made but more importantly what has been left behind.

All the Millennium Development Goals

Team Yumba have also taken up the task of discussing the importance of each MDG. The group were divided, resulting in a catch-22! Half the group argued that in order to eradicate extreme poverty there is a need to educate every child; this will then create a trickle down effect in which all other goals will flourish. Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime!

Trudy, Danny, Abdul-Raheem and Mohammed-Awal debating

Yet the other half believed the focus should be on eradicating extreme poverty. “You can’t teach a hungry child” were the wise words Portia spoke, based on the situation in Ghana. The Ghanaian Government realised that one of the reasons children were not going to school in some communities was due to the lack of food. It therefore introduced a school feeding programme which increased enrolment of children. Education and the eradication of extreme poverty are therefore, Team Yumba believe, interlinked.

Adam, Eilidh-Rose, Portia and Chelsey discussing the importance of the MDGs

Disability, Yumba Special School and the Millennium Development Goals

Surprising to ourselves, but also noted by many others in their critiques of the MDGs, was the clear lack of acknowledgment and absolutely no mention of persons with disabilities. Of the 1 billion people in the world living with a disability, 426 million of these live below the poverty line. For many, the most pressing issue is not their specific disability but in fact their lack of access to resources such as education, healthcare and employment. In my opinion, although the MDGs are aimed at the world’s poorest, there needs to be a specific mention of persons with disabilities so that development efforts can then be tailored to the specific needs of persons with disabilities.

Pupils at Yumba Special School during a vocational lesson

Although not specifically citied in MDG documents, persons with disabilities have benefited from the creation of the MDGs. One example can be seen through our inspirational project partner Yumba Special School. Due to these new global partnerships International Service and Yumba School have been working together for the past 7 months. Yumba provides children with disabilities in Ghana with free education and also giving them skills through vocational classes that will help them throughout their lives. In addition the school provides free school meals, ensuring no child goes hungry. It promotes gender equality and child mortality through educating people about intellectual disabilities. Yumba and International Service, through working in partnership, make a positive contribution towards the MDGs. The school ultimately empowers children with learning disabilities and enables them to exercise their human rights!

Towards an Inclusive Development Agenda

Disability rights and including persons with disabilities has always been close to my heart and has therefore had a large influence on my experiences in Ghana. What I have learnt, is that disabilities, be it autism or epilepsy (or the many others!) are the same wherever you are the in world. What is different however, and what improves the quality of persons with disabilities lives is indeed their access to resources. Although Yumba Special School provides a safe environment for the children of Tamale to be educated, it is the only school of its kind in the whole Northern Region. So far my time in Ghana has highlighted the importance of including persons with disabilities into international development efforts. With a specific mention of persons with disabilities, maybe more development organisations can focus on improving the lives of those living with a disability.  As the post 2015 Development Agenda states, international development should leave no one behind.

Yumba Special School, Tamale

If you would like any more information on any of the topics discussed, here are a few useful links!

Millennium Development Goals:

Disability and the Millennium Development Goals:

Post 2015-Development Agenda United Nations:

Post 2015 Development Agenda - hub of ideas, debates and resources:


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