A Provisional Report: Perspectives on Disability Policymaking in Zambia

This blog post contains research results. The results are not final; these still need to be further developed. Nonetheless, they give an idea about what some of our research participants have been telling us.

If you would prefer to see a pdf version of this report, click here.

The rest of this blog post is devoted to the report’s contents.


Exploring and enhancing disability and social welfare policy in Zambia Project

National Disability Policymaking Component

 Perspectives on Disability Policymaking in Zambia
A report from study phases 1 & 2

 Provisional report intended for community dissemination
April 15th, 2019

Shaun Cleaver, shaun.cleaver@mail.mcgill.ca / shauncleaver@gmail.com
(on behalf of colleagues Virginia Bond, Raphael Lencucha, & Matthew Hunt)

Project Overview

My name is Shaun Cleaver and I work at McGill University in Canada. I am leading a team to conduct the Exploring and enhancing disability and social welfare policy in Zambia project. This project is being supported by two other people from my same university: Matthew Hunt and Raphael Lencucha. I am also being supervised by Virginia Bond, from Zambart, in the University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Medicine, in Lusaka.

Our project has two parts. We call these parts components:

1) The National Disability Policymaking Component

This component is taking place in Lusaka. The research goal of this component is to better understand how information is used to make disability policy in Zambia. There is also an action goal: to improve the connections between disability advocates, policymakers and researchers. We are completing this component in 3 phases. Phases 1 & 2 happened in early 2018 and Phase 3 happened in early 2019. This report is mostly about the National Disability Policymaking Component.

2) The Grassroots Community Component

This component is taking place in Western Province, in Mongu and Kalabo districts. The research goal of this part of the project is to better understand how persons with disabilities are living, now that the government has started the policy of Social Cash Transfers (SCTs).

In April and May 2018, I interviewed 25 persons with disabilities in a village in Mongu District and 26 persons with disabilities in a village in Kalabo District. Our first impressions of what we heard were that 1) SCT payments have been unpredictable, 2) people are aware of SCTs but have little information about the details of the program, and 3) beneficiaries feel disempowered.

I am analysing these interviews in more detail; I also visited the villages in 2019.

Combining the two components

These two components tell us different things about disability policy. As we complete this project, we will combine the things we are learning from both components to make more general conclusions.

Purpose of this report

I am publicly sharing some thoughts about the project – especially Phases 1 and 2 of the National Policymaking Component – with the intention of reaching Zambian disability advocacy communities. The responses from these communities will help me better plan future reports that we make for this project.

Phases 1 and 2 of the National Policymaking Component

What we did

Phase 1 – Interviews

In March 2018, I spoke with 12 disability policy stakeholders (8 disability advocates and 4 policymakers). I spoke with them for between 40 and 90 minutes, asking them for their perspectives on disability policy and how it was made. I audio recorded the interviews and then wrote out everything that people said.

Phase 2 – National Policymaking Workshop

I led this event on June 11th, 2018, at Zambart on the University of Zambia (UNZA) Ridgeway Campus. Thirteen (13) disability stakeholders (9 advocates and 4 policymakers) attended the workshop. In the workshop, I presented a few of the things that I learned in the interviews. All workshop participants spoke about these things that we learned. We also discussed disability policy in general.


The five main things that we have learned so far from Phases 1 and 2

1.      Disability policy stakeholders are talking mostly about the National Policy

When we asked people to speak about disability policy, they almost always started talking about THE National Policy on Disability. This was not true for everyone; for example, one interview participant wanted to talk more about the Mental Health Bill.

In talking about how disability policy was made, most people spoke of a linear progression: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) led to Zambia adopting the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2012. The act then led to the creation of the National Policy on Disability.

2.      Many people said that the purpose of the National Policy was mainstreaming

In talking about the National Policy, many of the research participants emphasised that disability should be considered in all other concerns (mainstreaming).

“The disability policy in Zambia is there. The policy is about the way disability should be handled in the country. Yeah. And maybe one of the outstanding features about it is that the government has decided to mainstream disability.”

While talking about mainstreaming, participants spoke about the importance of Disability Focal Point Persons (DFPPs). As we were conducting Phases 1 and 2, new DFPPs were being selected to address previous problems.

3.      Participants also spoke about being more involved in “little policies”

By “little policies,” I am referring to things like communications strategies, implementation plans, monitoring and evaluation frameworks, mainstreaming action plans, strategic plans, and budgets. Participants spoke of having closer involvement, control, and ownership of these little policies. By contrast, participants spoke of sometimes being consulted for the “big policies,” like the National Policy on Disability, but without the same sense of involvement.

4.      When talking about policies, participants spoke most about implementation

Participants spoke more about implementation than they did about choosing which issues to address, about writing policies, or about evaluating them. In talking about implementation, participants expressed different opinions about the extent that implementation was happening. Meanwhile, nearly all participants agreed that disability policies needed to be implemented more.

5.      When talking about research for policy, participants spoke most about disability prevalence research

The goal of disability prevalence research is to estimate the number of persons with disabilities. There have been numerous disability prevalence studies in Zambia, including the census and other special studies. Data collected for one of these studies, the National Disability Survey 2015, was still being validated in 2018.

Participants expressed a wide variety of perspectives about the ways that prevalence research should be done and what the results were supposed to be. Despite the differences in perspective, many participants were passionate about disability prevalence research.

Phase 3 of the National Policymaking Component

The final phase of this component has happened in the first few months of 2019. Phase 3 involves more data collection activities: I have conducted interviews where I ask disability policy stakeholders to talk about their relationships to other stakeholders. In these data collection activities, we have again approached advocates and policymakers, but also Zambian disability researchers.

Moving forward from Phase 3

Now that the data collection is almost finished, I am devoting more time to dissemination and knowledge translation activities. Dissemination could mean creating reports similar to this one; we will allow community members to tell us whether to use this report or something different. At a future time, maybe we could look for partners to help us hold events. Our budget for this project is small, so we will have to be strategic and use the little money that we have wisely.

For knowledge translation activities, we have been thinking about ways to get researchers, disability advocates, and policymakers to work together more regularly. We are thinking that a “Knowledge Translation Triad” might be a good way to encourage this type of collaboration. A Knowledge Translation Triad is a framework in which community members (that is to say, disability advocates) work together with researchers and policymakers to build processes, structures and relationships according to agreed-upon principles.


We would like to thank all of the participants who offered their time to contribute to this research through the interviews and the workshop. Research assistance and coordination was provided by Ms. Mbaita Mayembe, Mr. Smith Kawan’gu, Mr. Malambo Lastford, Ms. Akufuna Nalikena, Ms. Martha Kaunda, Mr. Lufwendo Muliokela, Mr. Martin Mumba, and Ms. Patra Kapolesa.

6 thoughts on “A Provisional Report: Perspectives on Disability Policymaking in Zambia

  1. Martin Mumba says:

    Waoh! Am thrilled to know the report has come this far.

    Thankyou Dr. Shaun Clever for the opportunity to work with you as a Research Assistant and the Team we worked together


  2. Doreen Chisanga says:

    Thank you so much for this comprehensive report .much has been done but there is still more to consider in terms of disability awareness .despite all the efforts noticed in the report .Zambia being part of the nations practising inclusion it seems are individuals who have been marginalised were left out in this report.looks the report only focused on disability .as we all know that the concept of inclusion enjoys a high profile around the world by virtue of its incorporation into the education policies internationally.and since each country is working towards increasing participation and decreasing exclusion from the mainstream settings.I would have loved this report to be based on inclusion.otherwise thank you so much for what you are have done so far.


    • @ShaunCleaver says:

      Thank you for your comment and your support more generally Doreen!

      So that I understand your comment better, can you describe the profile of the Zambians who you understand as being “marginalised,” but excluded from our work?

      I ask this sincerely, in the spirit of “Leaving No One Behind.”

      At the same time, persons with disabilities are telling me that they often have problems with policies, programs, and services that are aimed at “The Vulnerable.” From what these people have told me, they feel that when we speak of The Vulnerable, all the attention goes to widows and orphans, and that the disabled are forgotten.


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