People with disabilities should not be treated as children of a lesser God

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… government should adopt a national policy on disability

By Perseverance Javangwe

It’s more than ten years since the United Nations established a convention on rights for people with disabilities, but we are still far away from achieving equality this is because People with Disabilities (PWDs) are still being treated as if they are children of a lesser God.

In most places that I have met people with disabilities, there is one statement that I have heard them repeat again and again, “I am treated as less human.”

Chrisphen Ncube whom I had the pleasure to sit down with said everywhere he goes people view him as a worthless person, “Ndikada kutsvaka imba yekugara vanonditi haiwa chirema chinowanepi mari yekubhadhara rent. Chirema ichi choda kuzotinetsa chakutisungisa chatadza kubhadhara ( where can a person living with disability acquire money to pay rentals?) This is the type of person that will report us to the police when we want our money).”

“We are discriminated a lot, people call us chirema/zvirema (disabled). That is discrimination. Tiri vanhu vanorarama neurema (we are people with disabilities),” he added.

According to the World Health Organisation, 1 billion people, one in seven have some form of disability. They are our classmates, relatives and friends, and they have the right to be treated the same way as everyone else.

Speaking during a Gender and Disability coordination online workshop hosted by Smile Action International (SAI), Caleb Ngwarati who is the Program facilitator at Amor Zimbabwe trust said that there is need for the country to adopt a policy on disability.

“It is high time for Zimbabwe to adopt a national policy on disability. A national policy is very important with regards to the implementation of disability laws. Such a policy has to take into consideration groups of PWDs who face double discrimination. For instance WWDs and CWDs. WWDs face the same spectrum of human rights abuses as other able-bodied women face. However their abuses are marginalized due to dependence and social isolation. Therefore they suffer double discrimination. CWDs are doubly marginalized firstly as children and secondly as PWDs. There is big concern for CWDs’ vulnerability, welfare and to ensure that their rights are protected.

“Furthermore, the PWDs often lack the opportunities taken for granted by mainstream populations. They encounter a myriad of physical and social obstacles that prevent them from going to school, getting jobs, accessing information, obtaining proper health care and from fitting in and being accepted. Ngarati said there is need to respect the rights of PWDs as they are just human beings like everyone else.

“…human rights are those basic standards which people cannot live without. To violate one’s human rights is to treat him as though she or he is not a human being or less human. To advocate human rights is to that the human dignity of all people should be respected. Article 1 all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 2: everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world,” said Ngwarati.

One of the ways that is applicable to changing the narrative for people living with disabilities is to change the mindset of millions around the country. To start, we need to see more people with disabilities in leadership and decision-making roles, in government, companies and the entertainment sector because they have a right like anyone else to become a minister as well.

Ngwarati added that though their rights are not protected and even recognised, PWDs still have the human rights and there is need to advocate for their recognition in the society so that the society do not view them as if they are children of a lesser God.

“Human rights are both inspirational and practical. Human rights empower people by providing a practical framework for action when those minimum standards are not met. PWDs still have human rights even if the laws or practices do not recognize or protect them. Therefore a rights based approach provides PWDs with a powerful tool to advocate for full recognition and participation in society and full enjoyment of their human rights,” he said.

The government need to make sure that disability rights are enforced through better monitoring and resources invested in rights-respecting alternatives to institutions and isolation cells. And people with disabilities themselves and their representative organisations should be involved every step of the way.

The Zimbabwean society should remember that disability does not discriminate; anyone of us can join the disability community at any point in our lives. It’s not about them, but it’s about us.

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