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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

PWD bemoan increased marginalization“

By Dumisani Ndlovu
Despite having one of the best disability policies in Africa if not in the world, Persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the Midlands Province are facing an epidemic of marginalization in all facets of life, especially in leadership positions.

Regardless of having made significant strides in promoting the rights of the disabled persons in the country coming up with the National Disability Policy officially launched by His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa in June 2021, gave much anticipation to people with disabilities, anticipating that society would appreciate disability rights and assist them to address inclusionary practices.

Regrettably, forty-two years after independence people with disability continue to face discrimination and challenges in accessing services such as education, and health and this has often limited their participation in mainstream society.

FILE PHOTO: (By Pasca Manhivi) PWDs gathering at the National Disability Expo event last year.

The launch of the policy, the hosting of the National Disability Expo in 2021, and coming up with an all-inclusive 2022 independence theme that reads “Zimbabwe at 42, Leaving no one and no place behind” was a perfect match that saw the Second Republic receiving an affectionate pat on the back from the disability sector. PWDs showered praise to the government for what they perceived as fulfilment, promoting, protecting, and respecting the rights of persons with disabilities. To confirm its commitment, the government also came up with a raft of laws designed to promote equal opportunities between the so-called able-bodied and persons with disability but for the majority of people living with disability equal opportunities were still a pie in the air.

The government’s apparent commitment and respect for PWD’s rights have also been shown through the signing and ratification of regional and international covenants, treaties, and instruments which includes the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities UNCRPD (2006) which Zimbabwe ratified in 2013.

Despite all these efforts to address inequalities viewed by some as a game changer in the positive transformation of PWDs in Zimbabwe some people with disability still feel there is much to be done.
While most people with disability applauds efforts being made by the government to transform the lives of People with Disabilities, there is a need to up the political will to translate commitments made on paper into tangible experiences for them.

“In some of the National Disability Policy progressive key provisions amongst a plethora includes sections: 3.2.2 that seeks to ensure that 15% of the workforce of all organizations are PWDs. With Section 3.3.4 criminalizes discrimination by landlords of tenants with disabilities or tenants with a family member with a disability. The list is far from exhaustion but suffice to say these progressive provisions cover all facets of life.

Mberengwa and Zvishavane Association for the Disabled and Elderly Persons of Zimbabwe, Primrose Nyangoni said if the government is very serious about PWDs’ active participation in the political and public life, it must come up with guidelines for the political participation of persons with disabilities
“While we want to participate in elections. There is a need for resources, most people from the disability constituency are financially disadvantaged. If we get support (resource-wise) and if have our own resources of income and also get leadership positions we can emancipate ourselves and become economically independent,” Nyangoni said.

“Just like everyone else, persons with disabilities have human rights, hence they should occupy space in all facets of life including in employment, education, healthcare, housing, music, sport, disaster risk management, and many other areas,” she added.

Although the National Council of Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe’s President, Senator Anna Shiri hailed some of the developments such as the appointment of a visually impaired lawyer as a High Court judge, describing it as a milestone in the disability sector, she said more has to be done.

In section 3.27 of the Disability policy, under Political and public life, section 3.27.1 the important document ensures that persons with disabilities enjoy and exercise their right to vote or to be elected.
It also emphasizes, the elimination of all provisions and practices which restrict or deny the right to vote for persons with disabilities.

Young Voices Disability Zimbabwe, Director, Nyasha Mahwende

Young Voices Disability Zimbabwe, Director, Nyasha Mahwende echoed the same sentiment adding that although the government seems serious about ensuring disability-inclusive development and banishing stigmatization, elements of discrimination and exclusion are still being experienced in some sectors.
“While we believe advocacy has played a pivotal role, there are a lot of grey areas in most sectors including but not limited to leadership representation. As we speak a battle to replace the late Senator Rejoice Timire who was one of the elected officials, representing PWD in Zimbabwe’s Parliament. We the people with disability are the ones who should be allowed to vote but sadly. You will find able-bodied people voting for and on our behalf as if we do not exist, yet there is nothing for us without us,” Mahwende said.

Zanu PF National Assembly Representative for People with disability Senator Rejoice Timire succumbed to a Covid 19-related illness at Mbuya Dorcas Hospital in Harare, where she was admitted. She was 62 years.

Senator Timire, was at the helm of several disability organizations among them the Women Disabled Support Organisation where she was the Executive Director.

She became a board member for the Women’s Bureau, NASCOH, and WASN. She was also a member of the disability board and a former board member for the Women’s coalition.
Persons with disabilities constitute a significant portion of the population in Zimbabwe, yet they remain one of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations. It is difficult to obtain accurate data on the number of people with disabilities not only in Zimbabwe but worldwide because approaches to measuring disability vary across countries and according to the purpose and application of the data.


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