Barbra Phiri: First female disability agency chairperson
Published On January 4, 2014 » 4491 Views» By Administrator Times » Features
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FOR the past two weeks we have talked about the Government’s commitment toward the welfare of persons with disabilities in Zambia and in our last feature we talked to Honourable Friday Chipepo Malwa, former deputy minister in charge of disability at the former Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, now called Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.

We also talked about the new disability Act number 6 of 2012 which is a product of this Government. Today we are privileged to have Barbra Phiri a disability activist with vast experience in disability administration and advocacy.

As our readers may be aware,  the Zambia Agency for  persons with disabilities  has  been  without a  board  for  a long  time, but  in September last year

Minister of Community Development, Mother and Child Health Joseph  Katema  appointed the agency board and  Mrs Phiri was elected the first female  Board Chairperson in the history of the agency.

We are very hopeful that the new board will support government vision in addressing the plight of persons with disabilities in Zambia.

Dr Mwape:

Congratulations for your election as chairperson for the agency and wish you the best?

Mrs Phiri:

Thank you Doc and I am humbled by this gesture and we are looking forward to the challenge.

Dr Mwape:

 What is your message to your board?

Mrs Phiri:

 firstly, it is an honour for me to be voted as chairperson by my colleagues. I believe in team work and consult widely on matters concerning the welfare of persons with disabilities.

As a team we shall combine efforts with the director general and the entire management team, more especially that we are all appointed at the time we the agency is undergoing restructuring and reposition ourselves for improved service delivery.

Dr Mwape:

Do you think this restructuring will work well?

Mrs Phiri:

Yes doc, I am more than convinced and confident that the process of repositioning and restructuring the agency will come to fruition, more especially that we have waited for too long to restructure the agency because this was supposed to be done in 1996 when the agency was created.

Let me say that I am grateful to the Board of Directors for the confidence shown in me that I may drive the agency but for me to work well I will depend on collective support of all the Board members and management.

Dr Mwape:

When where you appointed as a Board member?

Mrs Phiri:

I was appointed to ZAPD Board of Directors on 21st September 2013 by the Minister of Community Development, mother and Child Health Hon Dr Joseph Katema and as you know I am executive director of Zambia Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities (ZACALD) and a proud mother of a teenage girl with an intellectual disability. It is my motherly experience with my child that drives my passion for care and support for persons with disabilities.

 Dr Mwape:

Who are other members in your new team?

Mrs Phiri:

As you know that I was in the previous Board which was chaired by my brother Mr Chola Kafwabulula and from the previous board it’s me and Mr Sylvester Katontoka who was also elected vice chairperson and other Board Members are Mrs. Sambwa Simbyakula from the Ministry of Justice, Mr Lackson Chipato from the Deaf Blind Association Zambia, Mr Lazarus Mwelwa from the Ministry of Finance, and Mr Mabvuto Daka from the Zambia Federation of Employers.

Others are Mr Paul Mumba from the Ministry of Health. Mrs Trina S. Muwile from  ZNAHI, Mrs Mbelete M. Sana from Chainama Hospital, Mr Master Zimba, Mrs Mbelenga and Mr. Mulenga Shamba from Ministry of Works and Supply. All board members have great experience and we hope that will bring our experts and experience together to change the image of the agency and what Government has done so far.

Dr Mwape:

As a centre we are aware that you have been involved in disability activism since early eighties and today you have become a strong voice at national and international disability forum. We are told that you never turn down an opportunity to talk to people about disability related issues, especially intellectual disability. In 1998 Mrs Phiri met other world leaders in De Haag, Netherlands, and presented a concept paper on accessibility for persons with disabilities and learning difficulties with focus on intellectual disability. Mrs Phiri believes that people with and without disabilities are still people with dignity and deserve respect from society in terms of rights as provided in the United Nation Convention on the Right of the Disabled. She loves advocacy because through it society’s mind set toward disability is changed for better. With all this rich background in the movement what is your approach as chairperson?

Mrs Phiri:

My wish is to continue interacting and partnering with decision-makers and other people to change laws, policies and processes so that together we can achieve an inclusive society for all.

Having been in the disability movement for a long time I must say that the Patriotic Front Government has done very well in addressing challenges faced by persons with disabilities and with the appointment of our Board more shall be done. My passion for the plight of disabled people is too strong and during my term in office I would like to have an active presence and influential voice in community and civic life because every great dream begins with a dreamer.

Always remember, all of us have within ourselves the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

For me I think disability, I sleep disability and eat disability. That is how deep my passion is for persons with disabilities that surpasses human understanding.

Dr Mwape:

What are your last words and thank you so much for this interview?

Mrs Phiri:

 Dr Mwape may God bless you for your work and for me collective responsibility is the only key for  us  to make this dream a reality and promote participation leadership, equality and create a strong and united  voice in decision-making through information exchange and systematic advocacy by building bridges and promote partnerships.

Our focus on ZAPD will be creating a greater voice for persons with disabilities and implementing activities that build capacities of disabled peoples’ organisations and speak out about challenges with a view to finding sustainable solutions as we reach out to persons with disabilities in affected communities. We need to do more in the area of care and support and strengthen partnerships with other local and international disability groups.

Lastly I would like to thank the Government for repealing the Persons with Disabilities Act which is one direction towards domesticating the

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and also for increasing the ZAPD annual grant. This will indeed go a long way in seeing the smooth operations of ZAPD and improvement in service delivery to persons with disabilities.

Dr Mwape:

There are many people that read disability corner who may wish to contact you, are you available.

Mrs Phiri:

 I believe in open-door policy and I’m open for suggestions and available to meet our people and for those wishing to contact me they are welcome, I am on +260977849530 and my email addresses are and

-For your letters please send to us on P.O. Box 34490 Lusaka, Zambia or use our South African Address. The author is Regional Disability policy Analyst for SADC and Inclusive Development Advisor for Centre for Disability Development Research, Law and Policy, Johannesburg.

Project Office, P.O Box 1981 New Castle, 2940 South Africa

Tell:  +27343127894;   Fax:  +27343127894;   Mobile:  +27733453663

E-mail:;  Website:  Mobile +260966-755461

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