Many countries throughout the world have, in recent years, adopted policies aiming to promote the rights of people with disabilities to full and equal participation in society. This has often been in response to the ILO Convention No. 159 concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons (1983). Policy on employment opportunities for people with disabilities is frequently supported by legislation and implementation strategies as essential tools to promote integration and social inclusion.
Some countries in Africa have made progress in introducing disability-related legislation, but many of these laws have not yet been implemented. In other African countries, existing national laws need to be reviewed in order to achieve equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities. Improving legislation and implementation strategies has been identified as one of the main issues to be tackled in the African Decade of Disabled Persons 1999-2009.
The effectiveness of laws in improving employment opportunities for disabled persons – whether they are vocational rehabilitation laws, quota legislation or anti-discrimination legislation – is central, not only in terms of the economic rights of disabled people, but also their broader social and political rights, which are closely linked to economic empowerment.
The country study for Malawi is part of an ILO project “Promoting the Employability and Employment of People with Disabilities through Effective Legislation”. The first phase of the programme (2001-2004) aimed at enhancing the capacity of national governments in selected countries of East Africa and Asia to implement effective legislation concerning the employment of people with disabilities. A knowledge base on laws and policies regarding people with disabilities was built and a Technical Consultation was held in Addis Ababa on 20-22 May 2002. Technical assistance was provided to selected national governments in implementing necessary improvements. Phase 2 of the project (2004-2007) is extending coverage to several additional countries (Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia in Africa and Viet Nam in Asia), with a broadened focus on provisions for vocational training and skills development. A second Technical Consultation, “Employment of People with Disabilities - A Human Rights Approach”, took place in Addis Ababa, 23-25 September 2005, to launch Phase 2. Support to countries that are in the process of improving their legislation will continue, training will be arranged for key stakeholders in disability-related laws and policies, and support will be provided to media campaigns to promote positive images of disabled people at work.
This country study outlines the main provisions of the laws and policies in place in Malawi concerning the employment and training of people with disabilities. An initial review of the implementation of the legislation is also provided. A concluding comment underlines the progress made in the country and points to areas that have been identified, by key stakeholders or in the literature, as in need of further improvement. It may be read in conjunction with the regional overview prepared for the Technical Consultation in 2002 “Employment of People with Disabilities - The Impact of Legislation (East Africa), Technical Consultation Report, Addis Ababa, 20-22 May 2002”, ILO 2002.