How I went from youth reporter to organisation founder

Ian Banda

Ian Banda is one of our citizen reporters. He tells us about his experience of being part of our 2030 and Counting programme and setting up his own organisation to support young people with disabilities in Zambia.

One of our citizen reporters sits smiling at the camera

I was born with a physical disability but had never let that define me. It has never stopped me from working hard to unleash my full potential.

I joined Leonard Cheshire’s ‘2030 and Counting’ project in 2018 as a youth reporter. I had no idea what ladder I was climbing and how it would transform my life and that of my community.

My exposure as a lead citizen reporter has grown my interest and zeal in public speaking. It also sparked my interest in disability advocacy through community reporting.  I am now a recognised youth disability advocate not only in Zambia but beyond. 

My role as a citizen reporter

As a lead citizen reporter on 2030 and Counting, I was responsible for gathering stories from disabled people in my community. We then used these stories to educate other people about challenges and stigma. The stories were also useful in trying to advocate for broader change in the government.

I have always had a passion for the rights of children and youth with disabilities. 2030 and Counting enhanced my knowledge and skills. It exposed me to my community and the challenges faced by my fellow youths with disabilities. After my time on the programme finished, I knew I wanted to do more. 

Setting up my disability-led organisation

In Zambia, there is a lot of discrimination. There is a lack of provision of reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. It is not a priority, and as a result, people with disabilities face a lot of barriers. With this in mind, I decided to come up with my youth-led disability organisation. We are Youth in Action for Disability Inclusion of Zambia (YADIZ). YADIZ promotes the inclusion of youth with disabilities in all aspects of life, which includes civic, political, economic, social and cultural life. 

In line with the challenges people with disabilities face, I have been working hard to continue my disability advocacy work. I have gone to the media to promote issues around disability and human rights. I am also involved in programmes that include policy, leadership and networking. 

Taking part in the Mandela Washington Fellowship program

As a young African leader, I took part in the Mandela Washington Fellowship program. It’s a highly prestigious and competitive program. I was very proud to be chosen. Through this, I participated in the University of Minnesota’s Public Management Program.

I was able to advocate for youth with disabilities across a wide range of domains including policy, leadership and networking. As a Mandela Washington Fellow, I also had the privilege to meet and dine with different government officials in the US who work in the field of disability and human rights. A massive highlight for me was presenting a poem I’d written called ‘Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity!’

The importance of technology

I also believe access to information and technology is essential for young people with disabilities. I partnered with the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA). With them, I helped promote the importance of ICT for people living with disabilities. Now, I am pursuing a diploma in Insurance at the Zambia College of Pension and Insurance Trust. Even here, I have found that my peers are benefiting from my initiatives in advocacy. They are also generally inspired by my spirit. 

In my day to day life, I do all I can to advocate for inclusion for youths with disabilities strongly. I hope that through the work of YADIZ we can make positive change. We must leave no one behind!