Disability policy and practice in Malawian employment and education

Wånggren, Lena and Remnant, Jen and Huque, Sarah and Kachali, Limbani and Sang, Katherine J. C. and Ngwira, Jenipher (2022) Disability policy and practice in Malawian employment and education. Sociology of Health and Illness, 45 (6). pp. 1354-1375. ISSN 0141-9889 (https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.13577)

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Malawi is a landlocked country in Southern Africa with a population of 17.5 million. It has taken great strides in addressing disability inequality in recent years. Despite this, Malawian trade unions, educators and disability activists report wide-reaching disability discrimination at an infrastructural and individual level. Situated at the intersections between disability studies and medical sociology, alongside work of postcolonial and Global South scholars, this article highlights how neo-colonial and Anglocentric dominant framings of disability do not necessarily fit the Malawian workforce, as they ignore cultural and structural differences in the causes and maintenance of ill health and disability. Building on interviews with workers with disabilities, trade unionists, educators, government representatives and disability activists in Malawi’s two biggest cities, the article emphasises the need to address specific local contexts; while policy asserts a model of social oppression, in practice, disability inclusion requires recognition of the social determinants of disability and inequality, and the economic, political and cultural context within which disability resides. Sharing co-designed approaches to engaging with disability definitions, stigma, language, infrastructure and resources, this article highlights the necessity of grounding disability and medical sociological theory in localised framings and lived experiences.