THE BLOG

How Sport Can Tackle Disability Stigma

07/04/2017 12:12 BST | Updated 07/04/2017 12:12 BST

The world's poorest suffer disproportionately from disability. Globally, there are estimated to be over one billion people with disabilities - 80% of whom live in developing countries.

And it is a sad fact that children with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be denied a school education. This has historically been an under prioritised area by the development sector, but with UK leadership this is starting to change. Sport can be a powerful tool to empower people with disabilities in developing countries; helping to tackle stigma and discrimination.

Anne: As an athlete who represented both Great Britain and Kenya, and as a woman who grew up with polio in Africa, I am well aware of the importance for disabled people accessing sport and the benefits of positive societal change developing countries gain by having positive role models. Sport can bring about change for people with disabilities in a profound way. It enables some to make choices and take risks, while others gradually acquire skills and accomplishments which build the self-confidence needed to take on other life challenges, such as pursuing education or employment.

Sport is an equaliser and its enormous potential has global reach. The language of sport is a universal one. It impacts positively on communities in general, and on young people in particular, fostering inclusion and influencing cultural attitudes. Many children across the world born with disabilities continue to be ostracised from their communities out of ignorance that the disability is contagious, or a curse. Indeed this was my own experience as I was growing up. Visibility of disabled people being included and treated the same as everyone else helps break down these ideas. Sport is one way that I am able to feel equal physically as it provides me with a platform for the world to see that I don't let my disability define me.

Lord Bates: Secretary of State, Priti Patel, has set out how people with disabilities will be systematically and consistently included in the work the Department for International Development (DFID) is supporting in developing countries.

We continue to explore the use of sport in development and have come across some inspirational examples of how sports can be used to empower people with disabilities in some of the world's poorest places. For example, in Burkina Faso the DFID supported International Citizen Service (ICS) programme is using sport and fitness activities for people with motor, sensory and intellectual disabilities to break down the barriers to inclusion of people with disability in schools, centres and community areas.

I believe in the potential sport has to make real and positive change to people's lives and give them the confidence to pursue education or take up a job and fulfil their potential. I encourage the development sector to further explore the benefits of sport in breaking down the barriers to participation in work, education, and every day activities that often exist for people with disabilities. This will provide us with the innovative tools needed to reach some of the most marginalised people in the world and make a huge difference to the quality of their lives; ensuring we can keep our promise to the world's poorest people and deliver value for UK taxpayers' money.

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Rt Hon Lord Bates, Minister of State for International Development and Anne Wafula-Strike MBE, Paralympic wheelchair racer