MWEMBE KAONA, Lusaka
IT IS in appreciation and recognition of her sensitivity to the plight of the vulnerable in society that Special Olympics conferred on her the title of 50th Anniversary ambassador for the African region, hence First Lady Esther Lungu became a voice for the intellectually challenged, a role that adds to her many other humanitarian roles.
The occasion coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics “Leadership Academy” hosted by Zambia at the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) from September 10 to 14, 2017 where 30 delegates from 21 African countries participated in the training programme.
It was a programme aimed at providing perspectives and tools that help Special Olympics leaders to enhance their personal and organisational performance.
The awarding was done by Minister of Youth, Sport and Child Development Moses Mawere, represented by acting director of sports Gibson Muyaule and Special Olympics president and managing director for Africa Region, Charles Nyambe, who presented the ‘50th Anniversary Ambassador’ title sash to the First Lady in the presence of the delegates attending the academy training.
Accepting the award, Mrs Lungu said in her address to delegates that she was humbled that Special Olympics decided to honour her with the title of ‘50th Anniversary Ambassador’ for the Africa Region.
She said that her passion for persons with intellectual disabilities was fuelled by the occasion, adding that her acceptance of the honour was because of the fact that Special Olympics brought joy to such children through sports.
Humbled by the gesture she said “My passion for persons with disabilities is not new to me. It is in my DNA, and what I have been doing even before I stepped into my current role as First Lady. I will immediately incorporate this task as one of the four pillars of the Esther Lungu Foundation Trust for inclusion of persons with disabilities.”
The sporting events included football, bocce, athletics, fun and movement games and she took time to interact with the children by participating in different sports activities.
Her acceptance of the award was applauded by Isaiah Banda, a pupil at Mutambe Primary School in Mandevu who is living with intellectual disability.
He said children with intellectual disabilities under Special Olympics appreciate the role she played in society to see that there was inclusion for them.
Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of the late US President John F Kennedy, who decided to make a difference when she saw little justice in the way people with intellectual abilities were treated in the 1950s and 1960s.
The step she took through her revolutionary vision and programmes changed the world and today over 4.9 million Special Olympics athletes aged 8 and above come from 172 countries.
With such gestures, the number of children living with intellectual disabilities is set to increase their inclusion in different sports disciplines which will enhance their esteem and feeling of belonging in society.
Special Olympics was recognised by the International Olympic Committee with a Protocol of Agreement nearly 25 years ago during the 1988 Winter Olympics. Since then, the two world bodies continue to collaborate in sports promotion activities.
SPECIAL OLYMPICS – ZAMBIA
Special Olympics Zambia has been a part of the Special Olympics International family since the post-independence era and has been involved in global activities since becoming a part of the organisation.
It was therefore timely that the country hosted the leadership summit whose guest speakers included Justice Minister Given Lubinda, former First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa, Rajinder Sembi past chairperson and constitutional area leader for the global leadership team for Africa.
Facilitators were Mabel Mungomba, chief executive officer of Belcomm Ltd and UPSTART Skills Bank, Special Olympics chief for organisational excellence Denis Doola, Senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, Ambassador Luis Gallegos and managing consultant Brandon Pleaner.
Among countries that took part in the leadership academy were Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Liberia, South Africa, Namibia, Cote D’lvoire, Senegal, Swaziland, Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Zambia the host.
With the passion she has and the influence she wields being a member of the Organisation of African First Ladies (OAFLA)Zambia’s first lady is without a doubt a worthy choice of 50th Anniversary ambassador for the African region a role that will not only benefit the country but the continent as a whole.