BY STEVE EPHRAEM
AFRICAN society, especially the rural areas, has no level ground for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). The disabled constituency faces more challenges in rural areas as compared to their urban counterparts.
It is common knowledge that most areas in rural Africa are found wanting in terms of services and technology. The distance between home and services such as health care, education, banks and others is so huge that is seriously affects Person with Disabilities.
A good example is that which was highlighted by one Manomwe Chagwiza of Chisuma in Chipinge South, Zimbabwe who outlined that his disabled constituency is facing a lot of logistical challenges to access services from Chipinge town.
“We are facing a lot of logistical challenges when travelling from Chisuma or Mahenye to Chipinge town where offices of the Department of Social Department are located. We make three different trips to connect Chipinge town. First it is Chisuma or Mahenye to Jack Quinton Bridge, then from the bridge to Checheche and finally from Checheche to Chipinge town.
“If you check well, ours might be the longest distance to Chipinge town, that is, more than 200km. We part away with not less than US$10 per trip per person. In my case I travel with an assistant, we need more than US$20 to town and another US$20 to travel back home,” he said.
Society tends to discriminate against Persons with Disabilities in rural societies. Gender Based Violence is easy against PwDs. A lot of PwDs have received emotional abuse from both relatives and outsiders. They are usually blamed for their condition and situation.
Myth and beliefs seriously affect Persons with Disabilities. Most people tend to regard disability as a curse. Due to this discrimination, parents or families of PwDs end up hiding their children or relatives who are disabled. Many PwDs end up not going to public religious meetings or schools.
Addressing people during an interface at Vheneka in Chipinge South, Zimbabwe, a disability champion named Solomon Brave Mlambo asked how society is thinking that it’s doing PwDs justice by hiding those disabilities.
“When going for religious meetings, why do you leave your disabled children behind? They have right to worship. How can your child be saved if you lock him up as you go worship? How can he be helped if you withdraw him from society?” he said.
The situation needs people to change their attitudes towards Persons with Disabilities.
A Non-Governmental Organisation named Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) has managed to concertise communities in rural Zimbabwe to be inclusive of Persons with Disabilities.
Through an initiative called Inclusive Communities Project, REPSSI has empowered Persons with Disabilities to become their own champions and speak for their rights. REPSSI is yielding a lot of success stories.
Many educational and health institutions in Chipinge and Chimanimani in Zimbabwe are renovating their subways and toilets so that they are disability friendly. Through road shows in the two districts, PwDs have managed to engage communities on the need to include Persons with Disabilities in all aspects of life.
REPSSI reports of a case of one male aged 22 who by the time the organisation engaged his family, the man could not bath on his own or could be allowed to cut his hair. The man is said to have been told by a religious sect that cutting his hair could make his situation worse. After a year of receiving support from REPSSI, the man can do most things on his own and has his hair cut.
It only needs society to do away with myth about disability that Persons with Disabilities can be empowered and become champions in their own right.