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September 25, 2013 | Africa: Malawi

Family Health Forums Increase Knowledge and Change Behavior

By Kristin Hughes

In Malawi, Clement (pictured) and his family are educating people throughout their community about how to treat people with intellectual disabilities.

In Malawi, traditional leaders or chiefs serve as the gate keepers to the community and play a vital role carrying out local initiatives. Special Olympics Malawi has successfully entered villages across the country through the sensitization of chiefs about people with intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics. In Salima, this resulted in changing the overall attitude of a community. After sensitizing the chief of Clement’s village in Salima, Special Olympics Malawi was able to connect with Clement’s family who had been identified through his school as having an intellectual disability.

Clement’s father attended a Family Health Forum focused on how to care for people with intellectual disabilities, and that’s when everything changed. Clement was regularly beaten by other children and was not accepted in his community. Following the Family Health Forum, Clement’s father came back to their village and shared what he learned with the community and felt empowered to advocate for his son. Clement’s father said, “After sharing what I learned with community members, Clement is becoming more accepted and no one beats him anymore. Our lives changed, the community has changed and we can better care for Clement. We are happy.”

About Kristin Hughes: Senior Manager, Global Community Health Programs

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