By Jane Pasi
Harare, September 20, 2013 – Civic and rights lobby groups representing people living with disabilities in Zimbabwe are pressing on the new government to amend the disability provisions in the new constitution, arguing that they do not adequately represent the input of those affected by a variety of impairments.
“The same exact rights which are in the women’s section are relevant and should be inserted in the section dealing with disabled people, then we shall be home and dry,” said Watson Khupe, the honorary treasurer of the Federation of Organisations of Disabled People in Zimbabwe.
Khupe was speaking on the side-lines of a workshop held in Harare for civil society organisations dealing with disability mainstreaming and human rights.
The concerns by the non-governmental organisations fighting for the rights of people living with disabilities also stem from instances in which such people are excluded and side-lined in many societal programs.
Tsarai Mungoni, the research and advocacy officer of the National Association of Societies suggested: “Every ministry should have a provision which compels every government institution to have a disability desk that is responsible for ensuring that all programs are disability sensitive and responsive”.
He cited the example of the female condom, highlighting that the producers of the product did not put blind women into consideration as they are unable to read the instructions or the expiry dates among other things.
Workshop participants agreed that society sometimes created barriers for people living with disabilities by not properly consulting them. This makes it difficult for them to access their education, economic and health rights in the country. Mungoni said most buildings and elevators in Zimbabwe were not user friendly to wheel chair bound people and they are also not sensitive to needs of people with visual impairment.
Nearly 2 million people live with disabilities in Zimbabwe, accounting for a significant 16.6% of the country’s population of about 12 million, according to a baseline survey done by World Health Organisation. Of the 2 million people living with disabilities, only 700 000 are eligible to vote.