Why data is important

Ian Banda

Youth advocate Ian Banda tells us how our Disability Data Portal can help him make changes in Zambia.

Ian Banda speaking at a conference

There is so much power in data. Data – like personal stories and facts and figures – is so vital in getting a strong message across. In fact, it was central to my role as lead citizen reporter on the 2030 and Counting project.

The community citizen reporters and I went out and gathered community insights with our phones. We would then submit that content to a central reporting hub. The aim was to find data and stories about the barriers, challenges and opportunities for youth with disabilities in Zambia. Specifically, concerning health, education and employment.

This data is so essential in tracking progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - and making sure disabled people are included in this progress too! Because there is no single SDGs about disability, but the 17 SDGs can only be achieved if people with disabilities have their rights fulfilled.

Inspired by Rebecca's education story

I found Rebecca’s story on education during a data collection trip in the local community. I was touched by how much she valued education. She knew it could improve her life. She has huge dreams for our country, and access to education is an integral part of that. I feel personal stories are essential for advocacy.

They show the impact on a personal, individual level and what transpires on the ground with regards to disability inclusion. It also helps provide a clear picture when providing evidence-based advocacy, which is essential if you want to bring about change at a higher level.

Why the Disability Data Portal is important

After 2030 and Counting, I set up Youth in Action for Disability Inclusion of Zambia (YADIZ). We are a youth-led disability inclusion organisation promoting inclusion in all aspects of life. I know the information available on the Disability Data Portal will help us with our work.

The portal gives us access to evidence for our advocacy work. Valuable data on the portal from census’ show that Zambian policies and practices have gaps when it comes to disability.

These figures can go a long way in highlighting concerns and irregularities in the way government implements policy, especially in areas like education and employment. These gaps need to be filled for disability inclusion to be a reality in Zambia. No one should be left behind and we are the best placed to bring that message to governments.

Being able to see gaps in the data

As the portal continues to expand, we will be able to see how we compare with other countries and assess gaps in other areas. From work in the community, we know there are issues when it comes to inaccessible sexual reproductive health for people with disabilities - as well as the negative attitudes displayed by health personnel.

There is also a lack of accessible information. Despite Zambia having some progressive policies, there is no implementation, monitoring and evaluation framework to track progress. That was also a recurring issue many people with disabilities experienced across the world. The simple lack of accessible information about COVID19 put us at a disadvantage. Access to better quality data, like the portal, can help us highlight these issues.

When it comes to advocacy, it is essential everyone has access to research. That way, we can improve public knowledge and awareness of the rights of people with disabilities. Data and stories are two sides of the same coin. By combining the two, we can influence laws and policies so that they are inclusive.

My fight for equality in Zambia

I recently made a documentary with Diamond TV about using my childhood experience and training to fight for equality for disabled people across Zambia.