This may sound to you like a day dream. For a young man with physical disability to crave for presidency ─ the highest office in the land, ─ is probably unthinkable in a country where discrimination against Persons with Disabilities still reigns.
Yet for a 24-year-old Ian Banda, his dream is achievable even when he is aware of the discriminatory tendencies in his country. To him, it is all, but an achievable task. All he needs is a favourable environment for him to exercise his right.
Born on 11 February 1993 in Lusaka, Zambia, Banda’s motivation stems from his great interest in promoting the rights of Persons with Disabilities. He believes that until Persons with Disabilities have taken charge of the highest leadership positions in their respective communities, issues pertaining to inclusive development may continue to elude them. He feels persons with disabilities are not active in leadership especially in politics, which is why he is offering himself as a president once opportunity strikes.
Although Banda uses a wheelchair to undertake errands, he has refused to let his physical impairment define and limit him from exploiting his potential. Banda is already working towards releasing his dream and he is taking advantage of every opportunity to build his capacity. Not only is Banda interested in leadership, he is also already a public speaker and a poet as well as a comedian. He is also passionate about the rights of children and youths with disabilities and speaks out against Gender Based Violence.
Given his charisma and determination, Banda recently won an award ─ Washington Mandela Fellowship. By this he will spend six weeks in an intensive leadership training in the United States. Banda learnt about the Mandela fellowship during his visit to the Information Resource Centre (IRC) at the US Embassy. He had been invited to an entrepreneurship summit by the US Embassy at government complex, where he was encouraged to sign up at the IRC in order to learn more about US government programmes.
“I met a friend called Temba Muimo who was a Mandela fellow at the entrepreneurship summit and he encouraged me to apply for the same. I went to the embassy and made the application. I went for interviews first week of February 2017 and was formally contacted on 14th March to say I had been awarded the opportunity,” Banda said with joy.
Banda intends to use this Mandela fellowship opportunity to learn more leadership issues as well as share his knowledge on disability rights. His aspiration is to become a role model for other youths with disabilities. To him, this will encourage parents of children with disabilities to educate their children and refrain from hiding them in the houses. “It was a dream come true,” Banda added, “I was very excited that I could move to another level in my life. I am motivated and excited. It will be my first time to fly and I really look forward to that.”.
Banda also doubles as a member of the youth equality disability pressure group under Zambia Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities (ZAPCD), which was formed in 2013 with the support of Disability Rights Watch. Through this pressure group Banda, together with a group of youths and children with disabilities and their parents, in 2014 presented a petition to the Human Rights Commission demanding for the promotion and protection of the rights of children with disabilities. His effort later compelled the Commission to appoint a disability focal point person and embark on activities to monitor Zambia’s domestication of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“I keep learning a lot through the pressure group; I have learnt that persons with disabilities have rights. I am looking forward to a day when persons with disabilities will enjoy their rights to the fullest,” he said.
Banda, a member of the IRC at the US embassy, started his primary school at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) Special School where he did Grade 1 and 2. Then he went to Dag Hammarskjöld boarding school in Luanshya where he did Grade 3-6. Whilst in school he developed a problem of constipation which forced him to relocate back to Lusaka to be close to his mother for care and support. He then started school at new Kanyama Primary School where he did Grade 8 and 9.
He later joined Kabulonga Boys Secondary School where he did his Grade 10 to 12 and completed in 2015. Whilst at Kabulonga Boys his leadership potential was notable and a result he was appointed as prefect in Grade12. He is also an active member of Youth Alive Club. Banda is currently a second-year student offering a certificate course in Insurance at the Zambia College of Pension and Insurance Trust ZCPIT. He is being sponsored by Archie Hinchcliffe Disability Intervention AHDI. Banda is so entrenched in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities that even in school he speaks for the other learners at the college who have now come to terms that persons with disabilities can achieve what all other people can if only they are provided with a supportive environment.
One interesting thing is that Banda hopes to own an insurance company and employ many young people. It is this level of determination that has caught the Disability Rights Watch’s attention who are now planning to reward him as its Goodwill Ambassador for Children and Youths with Disabilities in Zambia as soon as he returns from the US.
Bruce Chooma, the writer of this article is a participant of a writing Skills Workshop held in Zambia June 2017