The We are Able! programme conducts an annual meeting every year. The 2023 edition was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from Sunday 18 June to Saturday 24 June. The annual meeting was attended by around 40 participants from all countries and structures of the programme. The meeting discussed important topics such as policy change, shift of power and the ongoing midterm review. It was a fruitful week with very good discussions that resulted in fresh ideas for the second half of the WaA! programme.
Exactly halfway the programme, the annual meeting coincided with the midterm review. The two external evaluators were present during half of the programme, to observe our discussions on policy change and shift of power, but also to facilitate several plenary and group discussions, focusing on the Theory of Change and its three pathways, the MEAL framework, the partnership, the context changes and advocacy in the programme. These sessions provided useful data for the halftime evaluation, and spurred interesting reflections on the content and direction of the programme.
One of the challenges discussed was the variety of activities and how these all contribute to inclusive food security – the overall objective of the programme. It was concluded that we cannot stop at challenging stigmatisation and discrimination, strengthening the organisations of persons with disabilities and train local authorities on inclusive local governance. We have to engage policy makers on food- and livelihood security policies that are inclusive for persons with disabilities, allowing them to participate in and benefit from food production, consumption and marketing and thus raising their incomes.
Break out sessions and project visits
Several break out sessions were also conducted, for example to discuss our increased engagement with religious leaders and to plan for joint activities around the 3 December International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Besides the many analytical and content-related discussions at the annual meeting, there was also room for more practical activities.
We had a full-day visit to OPDs, CSO and local governments in the project areas of Addis Ababa. We were welcomed with a coffee ceremony, welcoming prayers and traditional cake, and heard interesting testimonies of OPD leaders regarding the activities and how these benefitted persons with disabilities. One women OPD leader shared the particular challenges of Eritrean refugees with disabilities, escaping the war in Tigray and now trying to make a living in Addis.
On Friday afternoon, we organised a policy symposium with Ethiopian and Dutch policy makers, discussing policy recommendations to promote inclusive food security in East and Central Africa. These recommendations were elaborated in our position paper, that we launched that afternoon. The recommendations ranged from local and national levels to African Union and global levels.
A panel debate resulted, with reactions from, amongst others, the Dutch Ambassador in Ethiopia and the Director General of the Ethiopian ministry of Women and Social Affairs. Presentations were also made by Shuaib Chalklen, director of ADF, and Abayneh Gujo, the director of the Ethiopian Federation of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (FEADP). The debate with the floor included several important contributions from the 100+ participants in the room.
The fruitful dialogues led to many conclusions and follow-up actions, all summarised in the meeting report. The participants look back on a positive and informative week and are excited for next year’s edition in Uganda!