December 2020 Workshop on Disability in Namibia

Disability in Namibia: Religious and Cultural Perspectives

3rd – 4th December 2020

Coinciding with the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3rd December 2020), The University of Exeter (UK) and the University of Namibia will be hosting a virtual workshop to explore religious and cultural perspectives on disability in Namibia. We look forward to hearing from speakers from a range of perspectives: People with Disabilities, Organisations of Persons with Disabilities, the Government of the Republic of Namibia, academic researchers, church leaders, UN agencies, NGOs, and more, to explore the situation on the ground in Namibia and the wider Southern African context. The (provisional) full programme for the workshop is below.

The ‘Disability in Namibia: Religious and Cultural Perspectives’ Project

The ‘Disability in Namibia: Religious and Cultural Perspectives’ project is a partnership between the Universities of Exeter and Namibia (UNAM), in collaboration with the National Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia (NFPDN) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN). Our work is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. We are seeking to build a broad and diverse network to explore the impact of religion and culture on experiences of disability in Namibia. We want to consider the ways in which religion and culture can have negative impacts on people’s experiences and community attitudes, as well as the possible positive roles that religion and culture might play in challenging disability marginalisation.

Workshop Focus and Questions

The focus of our workshop is the influence of religion and culture on experiences of, and attitudes to, people with disabilities in Namibia. This is an area that has not been widely considered and in which research is lacking. However, we also recognise that other issues (gender, social location, politics, economics) intersect with disability issues, so we need to consider the context as a whole. At this event, we will particularly be considering the following questions:

  1. What effects do Christianity, the Bible, and the church community/leadership have on the experiences of people with disabilities in Namibia?
  2. What effects do local cultures have on the experiences of people with disabilities in Namibia?
  3. How can religion and culture contribute to challenging stigma and discrimination regarding disability and bring about a more inclusive society?

Taking Part

This is a free event and it is open to all. To sign up to the email distribution list and receive the Zoom invitation, please email your details to Please feel free to distribute details of the event to colleagues and contacts who might be interested in attending. The more diverse the experiences/research interests of the participants, the better!


Sign language interpretation will be available at the Zoom meeting for all presentations and discussions. If you have concerns about internet access or other access needs, please email and we will make arrangements to facilitate your involvement. We would like to maximise dialogue, interpersonal engagement, and accessibility. Speakers are therefore kindly requested not to use presentation software such as PowerPoint slides.

Day 1: Thursday 3rd December                                  Windhoek Time (GMT +2)


10:00 Welcome from the Exeter-UNAM Project Lead – Prof Louise Lawrence (Exeter)

10:15 Ice-breaker – bring an object or discussion piece to introduce your Experience of Disability/Disability issues

11:15 Break

11:30 Roundtable discussion of Disability Experiences, Statistics, and Activism led by Mr Daniel Trum, Chairperson of the National Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia. He will be joined by Mr David Hughes (NFPDN), Ms Elizabeth Namwandi (Namibian Organisation for Youth with Disabilities) and Mr Moses Nghipandulwa (National Federation for the Visually Impaired). Q&A.

12:30 Lunch break

13:30 Disability and Religion – Stigma and Marginalisation. Prof Louise Lawrence (Exeter) will discuss ‘Ableism and the Bible’. Prof Charlene Van Der Walt (KwaZulu-Natal) will demonstrate how the Bible can be used to tackle marginalisation through an approach called Contextual Bible Study. Q&A.

14:30 Break

14:45 Disability and Culture. Dr Cynthy Haihambo (UNAM) will discuss her research on disability and culture in Southern African contexts. Dr Helen John (Exeter) will discuss her research on attitudes to disability in Owambo proverbs. Q&A.

15:45 Break

16:00 KEYNOTE ADDRESS by Honourable Alexia Manombe-Ncube, Deputy Minister: Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, responsible for Disability Affairs, in the Presidency of the Republic of Namibia. Q&A.

17:00 Closing remarks and informal discussion.

17:30 End.


Day 2: Friday 4th December                                       Windhoek Time (GMT +2)


10:00 Welcome from the Exeter-UNAM Project Lead – Prof Louise Lawrence (Exeter)

10:15 Disability, Health and Development – Dr Elina Amadhila (UNAM) and Prof Gert Van Rooy (UNAM) will discuss how religious and cultural impacts relate to health and development. Q&A.

11:15 Break

11:30 Roundtable discussion on Promoting Inclusivity – Dr Aune Victor (UNICEF), Ms Natasha Maritz (UNDP), Ms Loide Amkongo (UNFPA). Q&A.

12:30 Lunch break

13:30 Challenging Disability Marginalisation through Contextual Bible Study. Prof Louise Lawrence (Exeter) will lead a contextual Bible study to demonstrate how biblical texts can be used to challenge discriminatory attitudes and promote inclusion. Q&A.

14:30 Break

14:45 Disability, Religion and Culture in Southern Africa: Learning from Other Contexts. Dr Sinenhlanhla Chisale (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe) will discuss her research on disability in Zimbabwe. Dr Masauso Chirwa (University of Zambia) will discuss his research on disability in Zambia. Prof Charlene Van Der Walt (KwaZulu-Natal) will discuss her research on disability, gender and embodiment in South Africa. Q&A.

15:45 Break

16:00 Closing remarks and informal discussion.

17:00 End.

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”PDF Dec Workshop (FINAL)”]

Network Member Profile: Dr Elina Amadhila

Here is another member profile for you, showing what diverse expertise the Disability in Namibia network has!

It is great to be working with Dr Elina Amadhila of the University of Namibia, who is a multidisciplinary researcher with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and a Master of Arts in research (University of Namibia), as well as a PhD in Development Finance (Stellenbosch University). Elina has considerable experience in disability studies, having worked as research assistant and post-graduate research fellow in the EquitAble ‘collaborative’ project which focused on addressing the situation of people with disabilities and other marginalised or vulnerable groups with regards to access and quality of health services.

Elina’s role in the Disability in Namibia project is linking health to the aspect of development and contrasting the experiences from the global south (where I am from) to those in the global north (where collaborative partners are from). We are looking forward to hearing her talk about her perspectives on disability in our workshop in December (see our Workshop 3 page for further details).