Village Rhapsody: with EVANS MATHANDA
Human rights are not negotiated, they belong to every person in the universe from birth until death.
In Zimbabwe, there has been a constant call for the government and institutions to recognise and include people living with disabilities in all facets of life.
However, our structures are still far from inclusion, which is a worrying trend.
It’s high time Zimbabwe takes a giant step towards this.
Global inequalities and marginalisation of vulnerable groups remain a threat to the attainment of sustainable development particularly in third world countries.
National policy framework must ensure that persons with disabilities (PWDs) enjoy full inclusion in society.
Policies alone cannot change the lives of PWDs, but engaging them and including them in decision-making is very important.
Crafting sound policies can be valuable, but the policy framework must cater for everyone, especially vulnerable groups and this is the biggest mistake that many leaders make in our present day society.
Even when dealing with disability issues one has to do it right to avoid mistakes.
In the field of disability awareness, some of the worst mistakes are also the easiest to make.
Policy frameworks in Southern Africa should incorporate PWDs in all spheres of the economy.
Some government policies have been criticised for failing to integrate PWDs in development initiatives.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on June 9, 2021 launched the country’s national disability policy aimed at addressing the marginalisation and discrimination of PWDs, which should empower them to improve their own quality of life and enable them to contribute towards the national development agenda.
However, that alone is not enough. We should deal with the way how people view PWDs and vice versa.
Some perceptions towards PWDs are impediments to sustainable economic empowerment of PWD.
Society must play a critical role in shaping the lives of PWDs.
Human beings become functional through how society perceives them, hence society is our mirror.
Even today PWDs are always on the periphery of the society and they are the last vulnerable group to be recognised in development policy frameworks.
Disability does not mean inability — PWDs must be incorporated to all development adventures like everyone in society.
Covid-19 regulations have created a digital working environment, which needs little or no mobility since people can work in the comfort of their homes.
But there are very few organisations that will employ PWDs even if they are qualified and capable of doing the office job.
In so many cases, PWDs end up losing confidence to partake in societal development due to stigmatisation and discrimination.
Community-based organisations (CBOs) must embark in capacitating the lives of PWDs at grassroots levels in a bid to complement governments’ little efforts to integrate them in society.
Capacity building is critical in developing confidence and self-esteem to PWDs.
At least there are some notable changes in the Primary and Secondary Education ministry in line with PWDs, but a lot needs to be done.
I grew up in remote areas where I attended a school in which people with different disabilities were excluded and placed in one class (special class).
But what was special then if they were not treated like any child?
Primary education must be an instrumental tool to incorporate PWDs through capacity building to ensure that no one is left behind in development initiatives.
The genesis of stigmatisation and discrimination must be traced back from the domestic society.
The family should play a crucial role in socialisation of PWDs.
Family is the microcosm of the macrocosm as it reflects the smaller part of the whole society.
Living together with PWDs seems to be challenging to many people since some feel burdened by taking care of PWDs.
Disability policy protocols must be well communicated in communities to reduce stigma and discrimination of PWDs.
There is one thing I like about PWDs; they like to do whatever they can do by themselves.
The government must complement such efforts by formulating a policy framework that does not leave PWDs at the periphery of the society or to feel unwanted.
Disability is just a condition.
The transport system in Zimbabwe is no longer conducive for PWDs since the time Mnangagwa’s government decided to make Zupco a monopoly.
This government policy has caused menacing transport problems exposing PWDs to unsafe and dangerous environments.
PWDs have been the hardest hit by the Covid-19 situation.
Mnangagwa’s administration has been justifying the policy as being necessary in bringing sanity in the transport sector and to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.
However, there are no Covid-19 social distance regulations in Zupco queues.
I have observed several occasions where people in wheelchairs will join long queues waiting for Zupco buses with people, who are able to stampede for a seat.
Those chaotic situations are a threat to the lives of PWDs.
Private transport has always been preferable for PWDs but the pirate taxis are even more dangerous since police are always after private transport with their button sticks.
The government is pushing for Covid-19 vaccination across the country as they create situations that force citizens to be vaccinated.
But what about PWDs who cannot easily get to the vaccination centres.
Vaccines should be readily available to PWDs to help protect them from Covid-19.
Disability alone does not put them at higher risk for getting Covid-19 but they may be at higher risk because of where they live or at the Covid-19 vaccination centres.
The government should enact policies that promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all facets of life.
Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity. For feedback email: email@example.com or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19