By Grace Chaile Lesoesta
FIRST Lady Esther Lungu has been appointed the Special Olympics 50th anniversary ambassador for the African region to champion the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in sport.
During the unveiling ceremony of the First Lady as ambassador at a Special Olympics leadership academy at Olympic Youth Development Centre in Lusaka yesterday, Lungu called on leaders to use God-given capabilities to ensure that no person with intellectual ability was left behind.
She advised the Special Olympics leaders to remember that leadership was servanthood and should strive to make a difference in society where the intellectually disabled are side-lined.
“I am humbled to serve as a liberating champion of those in Africa with intellectual disabilities. In most parts of the world including Africa, persons with disabilities still battle for inclusion in mainstream development,” Lungu said.
She was saddened that the intellectual disabled are hidden from society by their own family members.
“They have suffered the worst forms of abuse and discrimination, mostly unseen and in some cases, their own families hide them away because they are ashamed. They deserve to be treated with respect and have an opportunity to be included,” Lungu said.
She encouraged the Special Olympics athletes not to allow criticism to discourage them but follow their vision.
Meanwhile, Special Olympics African region president and managing director Charles Nyambe said the appointment of the first lady was activated from her passion for persons with disabilities.
Nyambe said the committee was confident Lungu will help in championing for inclusion of persons with special needs through sport.
“She has shown so much passion for the disabled and we are glad to unveil her as our ambassador,” Nyambe said.
The Special Olympics celebrations to mark 50 years since it was created by Eunice Kennedy Shriver will start in January 2018.