Every day, people around the world are faced with disabilities from different causes. While some are born with disabilities, others are living with disabilities from traffic accidents or illnesses.
In a quest to expound on the fight for women’s rights, Spinal Injuries Association of Malawi observes that most resolutions on women in the country are silent about women and girls with disabilities and that in the few instances that they do, they are only from a protection standpoint.
Secretary for the association, Scader Louis told Every Woman that women and girls with disabilities are never or hardly viewed as actors or leaders.
She notes that while global, national and organisational policies and commitments on protection and empowerment of affected populations apply to persons with disabilities, they often lack specific reference to women and girls.
“We need to strengthen the voice of women with disabilities by increasing their access to information on reproductive health, gender-based violence and also improve educational and employment opportunities.
“I am a willing resource person to government and organisations in developing clear inclusive guidelines to enforce accountability,” she says.
She points out that despite efforts by different Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO’s) in the country; cases of violence and abuse against women with disabilities continue to rise.
“These women are very prone and at a great disadvantage due to the difficulties in defending themselves. In most cases, perpetrators are neither caught nor punished. There is need for increased awareness on disability rights and stiffer punishment to offenders,” says Louis.
In November this year, there will be a Women Institute on Leadership and Disability (Wild) Malawi training which will bring together women with different disabilities to draw solutions on issues affecting them.
This training will create a network of women and girls with disabilities whose common mission is to infiltrate. It also brings together new and emerging women leaders with disabilities from around the world to strengthen leadership capacity, exchange experiences and strategies, create new visions and build international networks of support.
Louis, who also participated in the 8th Wild training programme in Eugene, Oregon, USA between July and August 2016 says they were exposed to different issues, including access to reproductive health, gender-based violence prevention, implementation of policy and legislation and improvement of educational and employment opportunities for women with disabilities.
She says women with disabilities are not objects of pity or charity, but rather leaders and actors in their own right. They must be given the opportunity and support to decide their own future,” she says.