Public Works beneficiary with albinism working on a roads project, Mtantho Catchment, Dedza District, Malawi.
Photo: Excelon Limited


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The Government of Malawi is supporting inclusive growth by integrating persons with disabilities (PWDs) in its Public Works Programme. A recent pilot showed that including PWDs in such schemes allows them to earn income and contribute to creating community assets. This article presents some lessons learnt in the pilot and makes recommendations on how to include PWDs in national public works schemes.

Persons with disabilities (PWDs) and their families are among those most vulnerable to chronic poverty and social exclusion. According to the Malawi National Policy on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (2006), “poverty often causes disability and disability increases poverty”. Therefore, PWDs are among the most worthy recipients of social protection.

However, discrimination and stigma can make it hard, if not impossible, for people with disabilities to participate in social protection programmes. But if these programmes do not reach PWDs, this can exacerbate their disadvantage and trigger further exclusion, compromising long-term poverty reduction and development goals.

Where social protection programmes do reach PWDs in Malawi, cash transfers are the most prevalent form of support. This is based on a simplistic view that PWDs are unable to participate in productive activities and are, therefore, best served with welfare support. However, according to the 2008 Malawi Population Census, a large proportion of PWDs are farmers (72.4 %).

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