A long-time human rights activist believes in the power of storytelling: ‘Together we can promote the rights of students with disabilities’

Musola Cathrine Kaseketi is a founder of the production company and organisation Vilole Images Productions, founder of the Vilole Images Productions, and a human rights activist who works relentlessly to bring hope to those who feel hopeless. She is one of the founders of her organisation and a key player in the Zambia Inclusive Higher Education Project, a joint project of SYL, the Finnish Abilis Foundation and Vilole Images Productions. In this interview, Musola sheds light on the situation of people with disabilities in Zambia and talks about her work.

After graduating in the film sector, Musola not only dedicated herself to a career in film but also to sharing her learning with those who do not have the opportunity to study. This is a way for local people to be heard. At the same time, she used the medium of film to further human rights. ‘My disability and my challenges have always been my main source of motivation. My work is about change, and when I see the hope of something new bring a smile to people’s faces, it motivates me to work harder,’ says Musola. The support she receives from the disabled community makes Musola’s work even more important to her.

She feels that film is a powerful and effective tool for promoting human rights. The combination of filmmaking and human rights advocacy breaks down barriers faced by people with disabilities, both as individuals and on a wider social level. Musola adds that film brings people together to discuss difficult issues at the same level, thereby helping to create consensus. This can shape public awareness and attitudes, and create pressure on legislators and other decision-makers to put things right.

Girls and women with disabilities face exclusion

According to Musola, girls and women in Zambia face difficulties because of their gender, and especially those with disabilities just because they are female and disabled. ‘For a girl or woman with a disability, the financial investment that education requires may be seen as a wasted resource,’ she says. In addition to grassroots advocacy, efforts are also needed in Zambia’s government decision-making bodies to promote the inclusion of disabled people. Thanks to Musola and her collaborators, inclusive education and sexual health were included as themes in the country’s national disability policy in 2022.

Although the situation is slowly changing thanks to local actors and various international projects, so far the changes have been concentrated at lower school levels and institutions. In other words, more inclusive practices have not yet reached higher education in Zambia. This means many people with disabilities, especially women, remain excluded from higher education. There are various ways to promote the participation of students with disabilities in higher education, for instance by raising general awareness about the rights of women and other people with disabilities and their self-determination and sexual health. There is also a need to improve disability-specific support, services and accessibility in higher education. Local student organisations have been vigorous advocates in Zambia, and have both the potential and the know-how to support students with disabilities in their studies. Through the Zambia Inclusive Higher Education Project, SYL and the Finnish student unions in partnership with Vilole and the Abilis Foundation promote the rights of students with disabilities by supporting student organisations in their lobbying, among other means.

Musola hopes that by the time the joint Finnish-Zambian project ends in 2026, disabled university students will know their rights and how to demand equal treatment and respect, and can proudly continue their activism and other work for the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Helena Kärppä
Member of SYL’s Development Cooperation Advisory Board

Latest news

See all news
SYL contact us SYL logo
Questions? Contact us!
We are the experts in student life, at your service. We are happy to answer any and all topical questions pertaining to students and higher education.