The Comemo-Rally Scandal

Yesterday was indeed a day of mixed feelings for me. When I woke up I was filled with euphoria & excitement. Sadly the events of the day turned my smile upside down. What was meant to be a day that our Government remembers that people with disabilities are part of society & must be included in all spheres of society ended up as a freak show at best and a battle ground at worst.

The International Day for People with Disabilities is held annually on the 3rd of December. Sadly in 2017 this day came & went without much attention being paid towards it as usual! Just when I thought all hope was lost I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the government had planned to hold commemorations for this day though ‘slightly’ delayed due to logistical challenges. 

The rumour machine went wild with speculation that the new President of the country Cde E.D Mnangagwa would officiate the event, much to the pleasure of people with disabilities! It was also mentioned that the event would be held on Valentine’s day as a ‘gesture’ of love towards people disabilities from government. The 14th of February came & went with no official statement, then 9 March came & went in the same manner. Finally firm official communication was issued out by the Ministry of Social Welfare (the parent ministry of pwds) indicating that the commemorations would be held on 26 March 2018. It was also confirmed that these President of Zimbabwe Cde E.D Mnangagwa would be the guest of honour. This event would be held in the peri-urban location of Caledonia as a way to ‘celebrate’ people with disabilities who managed to build their houses in that area through their own hard work and perseverance.

Upon arrival at the venue I quickly noticed that the terrain was rugged making it rather difficult for people who use wheelchairs to get from one point to another. The event started 2 hours after it was scheduled to have began. One of the items on the programme was solidarity messages from various organisations and corporates as a was of promoting the day and general inclusion of pwds I suppose. Mr Mungoni a man with visual impairment who happens be Director of the National Association of Societies for Care of the Handicapped (N.A.S.C.O.H) and a member of the National Disability Board was denied the opportunity to read out the speech. I asked him why this had occurred. He then responded by saying ministry officials felt that his speech was too strong! This is sad as especially since the leader of the new government has a mantra which he consistently reiterates; “The voice of the People is the voice of God!” 

At some point while at this function I felt as if I was at the wrong venue because of the politicial under tones that were visible at the event. I ended up having the impression that this was indeed a political rally that was held under the guise of  being commemorations of the International Day for People with Disabilities. Most of the attendees were in fact people from surrounding areas. Also interesting is the fact that the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare is a member of parliament representing that area.

“The voice of the people is the voice of God!” – Cde E.D Mnangagwa

The President did not officiate this function due to other “pressing” issues. Instead Vice President Cde K.D Mohadi officiated the event. Of interest is that he managed to say the ruling party slogan not once but twice during his speech. He also paid tribute to the people of Caledonia & did not to so to people with disabilities.

As if to add insult to injury there were confrontations between attendees and Ministry of Social Welfare officials which culminated in Zimbabwe Republic Police throwing teargas into the rowdy crowd ostensibly calm the situation. Sadly these actions may have put the lives of innocent bystanders with disabilities in danger. Indeed something gotta give!
#Asante_Sana!

@analytque

The official statement of the event


The programme of events. Arrow indicating NASCOH was indeed on the programme⬆

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A Fresh Start…….

Following the recent developments in Zimbabwe where the Zimbabwean Army embarked on an operation to restore order and weed out corrupt elements surrounding former President Mugabe who were causing instability to the country and untold suffering to the masses and subsequent resignation of former president Mugabe. A new era becons as Zimbabwe is now under the leadership of President Emerson D. Mnangagwa.

For many a Zimbabwean the struggle has never been against President Mugabe and or the ruling Party ZANU PF. Contrary to popular belief our struggle has been against poverty, denial of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in our beloved constitution. It has been a struggle against corruption, a struggle for justice, equality, equity and empowerment.

People with Disabilities are also resident in Zimbabwe. In total it’s estimated that 15% of the country’s population has a disability of some sort this according to the World Bank. That’s approximately 2 million people! For time in memorial our plight as people with disabilities has been ignored. In this blog I will set out to reimagine Zimbabwe as a Utopia for people with disabilities.

I hope as our new President ‘hits the ground running’ he will consider some of the points below.

The new Zimbabwe will:

  1. Recognise Disability Rights and implement them to their fullest extent.

     The leaders of the new Zimbabwe will recognize the inherent human rights, fundamental freedoms and inherent dignity of all people with disabilities. They will recognize that all people are equal irregardless of race, religion, age, gender and ability.  All statutes relating to disability are to be implemented to the fullest extent without blaming lack of resources for lack of implementation.

2.  Disability Rights Commission

We imagine a new Zimbabwe that has a Disability Rights Commission that is headed by people with disabilities themselves and includes people with disabilities in it’s staff compliment. This commission will be mandated to monitor the implementation of disability rights legislation, monitor the activities of Disabled People’s Organisations and Disability Service Organisations.

3. Department of Disability Affairs

The disabled people’s act of 1992 clearly stipulated that there shall be a director of disability in the ministry of social welfare. We hope that in the new Zimbabwe this shall actually come to pass. We hope that this director will be a person with a disability and as well as some members of staff in the secretariat.

4. Universal Accessibility

Many pieces of legislation in Zimbabwe state that buildings must be universally accessible. Unfortunately many of these statutes are either haphazardly implemented or totally ignored. We envision a new Zimbabwe that adopts accessibility standards as prescribed by the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and fully implements these countrywide.

5. Empowerment and Employment

The Zimbabwean constitution mandates government to develop empowerment and employment programmes for people with disabilities. As people with disabilities we hope that under the new government these will be holistically developed and implemented. We also envision a Zimbabwe that has a quota system that stipulates that private and public companies must ensure that a certain percentage of their workforce are people with disabilities.

6. Education

Real inclusive education must be implemented from Kindergarten level all the way to University level. All schools in the country must be made disability friendly. All teachers must be equipped with special education skills to enable them to be effective in teaching children with disabilities. The education system must be resigned to accommodate groups like learners with hearing impairment as the nature of impairment does not allow them to have a firm grasp of grammatical aspects in written language.

7. Awareness Raising

The new Zimbabwe government must take a lead role in educating the non-disabled society about disability issues. Awareness programmes must be developed from grassroots all the way to national level. All forms of print & electronic media must be harnessed to raise awareness of disability. Social media must also be used to spread positive disability messaging.

8. Transport

As people’s with disabilities we dream of having a universally accessible transport system that is subsidised where necessary to enable us to travel from one point to the next with relative easy. All transport operators must be mandated to stick to universal accessible transport guidelines as set out by the Convention on the rights Of President with Disabilities.

9.  Self Representation

The new Zimbabwe will ensure that capable people with disabilities  my are included in all state and parastatal boards. All rural and urban council must reserve a seat for a person with disabilities. This councillor must have equal voting rights with others. At least 10% of all parliamentary seats must be reserved for people with disabilities.

10. Independent Living

 We as people with disabilities also have a desire to live independently on an equal basis with others. Government must enact and implement legislation that enables people with disabilities to live independently.Infrastructure to enable this to take place must be implemented by government.

The above points are just suggestions of things that can be done to address the plight of people with disabilities.


Peace ✌

@analytque

Focus on Mediocrity 😀

Greetings to you all,

I’ve always wondered why events that are disability centric are usual mediocre in nature. I refer to events in the Zimbabwean context of course.

One such example is that of the Miss Deaf Beauty Pageant where contestants each walked away with a paltry $8.50 which was sourced from a handicap (begging bowl) which was passed around to the audience present during the event. Imagine all the time and effort invested was it only worth $8.50? How about the costs each contestant incurred while preparing for this event? What was the major hindrance to the success of this pageant? Lack of adequate funding?

I digress.
Recently I had the ‘pleasure’ of attending this function⬇

Apparently it was a short film festival that was meant to flight films that demonstrate the ‘abilities’ of people with disabilities. I happened to attend this function with fellow disability activists.

Prior to our entry we actually thought we had been lost as we had heard preaching coming from the venue of this festival. As we entered we were taken aback by the way chairs in the venue were clandestinely arranged.

As we settled in we did a quick demographic survey. It emerged from the survey that the bulk of attendees were school children who are hard of hearing ‘deaf’. Despite this scenario I was heart broken to note that there was no sign language interpreters present. In essence though being the majority deaf people at the event were essentially excluded from the process.

Looking at Ruwa National Rehabilitation Centre itself one would assume that it is universally accessible by virtue of it being a rehabilitation centre. This however was not the case, for instance the toilets were not very accessible themselves. In the front of the hall is a stage. One would have thought that the stage would have a ramp to make it wheelchair accessible however that is not the case. Anyhow the organisers of this function did not seem to include anyone with a disability on their team hence it was easy for them to walk up the stage to enable everyone present to see them and give them a round of applause for the ‘job well done’ for organising the event as seen in the photo below.

The flier indicated that there would be a free lunch provided for those in attendance. I looked forward to feasting on exquisite cuisine. And all I got was ⬇ plus a warm bottle of water on a hot day!

It looks really appetising right? More so served in banned cancer causing kaylites!

The actual screening itself left a lot to be desired. The films had poor sound quality one could barely hear what was being said. To add on to the their pathetic nature is that most did not have subtitles hence those with hearing impairment could hardly follow.

I appreciate that the organisers may have had no control over the film production however they could have removed the films without any subtitles from the playlist. An alternative would be to have a sign language interpreter present during the screening who would simply interpret what is being said.

I am still to figure out why people we’re being given tickets for entry into the venue because there was no security detail whatsoever at the entrance to check these tickets. People could enter and leave the venue at will. I actually went back home with the ticket I had got. Unchecked unused 😢.

Generally looking at this and other functions to do with disabilities that are held in Zimbabwe it is apparent there there is lack of standards. It seems the organisers who organise some of these functions organise them for the sake of organising without taking into consideration the needs of their intended audience. Here is a piece of advice consider including a person with disabilities on your organising team.

One may argue that the mediocrity could be as a result of lack of adequate funding. However this event was sponsored by a whole host of sponsors including Australian based Nova Employment.

Their website: http://www.novaemployment.com.au

Why then the mediocrity?

The convention on the rights of people with disabilities says:

“Lack of Reasonable Accommodation is discrimination.”

Peace

@analytque

People living with disabilities vs People with disabilities

 The term people living with disabilities was borrowed from the HIV/AIDS fraternity. It implies that disability emerged after the advent of HIV in the late 70s or early 80s yet disability has been around since time in memorial. It also gives the impression that disability is some sort of life threatening condition that can be sexually transmitted which is not the true picture!.

 Has any of you heard of a person who died of blindness or polio?

My view is that the phrase people living disabilities continues to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against us as people with disabilities.
The term people with disabilities is a human rights person first approach. It recognises that one is human before recognising that one has a disability. Disability is not intrinsic. It is a result of one’s impairment which is intrinsic interacting with societal barriers which are extrinsic. For example a person with hearing impairment can communicate with others if others can converse in sign language. However his disability becomes apparent when he is in a situation where no-one can speak sign language. His disability becomes apparent. 
In a nutshell please may you kindly refrain from referring to us as people living with disabilities! 

Disclaimer:

This post is in no way meant to offend People Living with HIV & AIDS.

My Motivation

Greetings to you all;

This morning I was reminded of what movitates me as an activist thanks to Facebook. I thought I’d blog about this, maybe it could be of benefit to someone out there.

I’m not saying I’m going to change the world, but I guarantee I will spark the flame that will change the world.” #2pac

As a child I attended a ‘special’ school for my primary education. This is a school whereby all the learners are children with disabilities. Hence disability was accepted as being ‘normal’. To be honest I really felt at home at this school. Though I must admit I was somewhat over protected because apart from being at school I’d be at home with a family that accepted me as part of it. So in my early childhood I was rather blissful. As we all know ignorance is bliss. I was rarely exposed to situations where I would experience stigma and discrimination due to my disability.

Little did I know how naive I was! Unfortunately I had to grow up! Then came High School. 

After primary my parents thought it was in my best interest that I be mainstreamed into a ‘normal’ school setting. I then got enrolled into an all boys school. I must say most of my experiences at this school were horrible. Ladies and gentlemen my high school experience was hell!😈

 Imagine as a young teenager dealing with all these bodily changes bought on by adolescence I suddenly found myself in an environment where nobody wanted to be my friend, I was constantly belittled, I was isolated and I was alone. 

In a school of  over 1000 boys there were only 5 young men with disabilities. We were in different forms and classes hence touching base with my fellow comrades was very rare. Besides I felt that as much as I had an impairment I was no different from other students hence I tried not to isolate myself, sadly I believe other boys felt otherwise. 

I remember that I used a wheelchair to get around due to  challenges in mobility although I can walk. One incident that remember that occurred in High School is that my wheelchair was stolen! Imagine!!!!! 

I sometimes would leave my wheelchair just outside the classroom door, I’d then walk into the class and sit comfortably on a desk and chair because we all know that many of our Zimbabwean school desks are not wheelchair ready. In my final year in high school on the particular day my wheelchair got stolen I got into class as usual leaving my wheelchair just outside the class by the door. An hour later when my lesson was over I walked out of the class to get onto my wheelchair only to find it missing! After making frantic efforts to locate it I then visited the then deputy headmaster where I made a report. Just as I was walking out of his office I saw my wheelchair with a colleague on it! I asked him why he had stolen it and his response was that he wanted to feel how ‘nice’ it is to roll around in a wheelchair!

Looking back at this and other traumatic experiences I went through in High School I am grateful. Grateful that I came to the realisation that the situation of people to disabilities must change. I realised that I am an individual and it was up to me to make something of my life. I realised that it was up to me to be the change that I want to see! My motivation comes from the pain I experienced because I’m different from everyone else. My motivation comes from realisation that disabled or not we are all human and hence we must all be treated with the same dignity and respect!

Open Letter to All Zimbabwean Political Parties

Dear Political Parties,

Please do not neglect people with disabilities. According  to the 2013 National Survery on Disability & Health  conducted by the  Mininistry of Health &Child Welfare with support from  UNICEF, it was estimated that 7% of the population has a disability!

  1.  What is your party  doing to secure that 7%? You see even when Zimbabwe was the  bread basket of  Africa the needs of people with disabilities was never one of the  priorities which still continues today. 
  2. Preaching change will not suffice, what exactly are you or doing going to do to improve the lives of people with disabilities?
  3.  What are you offering  to parents of children with disabilities  to improve their children’s lives and ensure they also get an  education like their peers?
  4.   What are  you offering to adults with  disabilities? 
  5. What are you doing or going to  do to ensure Zim becomes  accessible for people with disabilities?

 I can ask all sorts of  questions but here’s the  thing advocating for disability rights is not rocket science so let’s  discuss “possible solutions.” 

  1. Firstly involve and work with people with disabilities, ask  them what their needs and wants are.
  2.  Put them at the forefront of  drafting your disability policies. 
  3. Make sure your  offices are  disability accessible. 
  4. If there’s no elevator in your  building please  do not carry people with disabilities to your offices, it is humiliating  rather meet them  somewhere else where it is accessible. 
  5. Familiarize  yourselves with the  Disabled Persons Act (Chapter 27:01) of 1992, is it  in line with the  UNCRPD which by the way Zimbabwe ratified in Sep 2013 but is  yet to  implement. 
  6. Have sign language interpreters at your rallies. 
  7. Make  sure  your election campaign material is also printed in braille. 
  8. If  possible  provide transport to and from your rally venues for people with disabilities.  

I  know  there’s A LOT you cannot do because it requires you to be the key   decision makers but what you can do to get people with disabilities involved, please do it.   7% is too large a population to ignore, after all every citizen  matters.
 N.B:

 Every vote counts!

Yours Sincerely 

Voter with disabilities

When the Activist Bucks up the Wrong Tree: 

By:Masimba Kuchera

The last few months have got me thinking whether I’ve been misdirecting my disappointment when the man or woman in the street calls me “bofu” or chirema”, loosely translating to blind man or cripple. I’ve always thought that we need to bring society up to speed with better and more respectful terms of referring to someone like me who has a visual impairment and have felt that it is out of ignorance that such terms as bofu, chirema, mbeveve or matsi are used referring to someone who has a visual, physical, speech or hearing impairment respectively. In addition to those words falling into class nouns of animals, the words carry a negative historical connotation akin to those words which referred our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who fought in the liberation struggle as terrorists or guerrillas and not freedom fighters. Many liberation movements struggled with this tag of being labelled terrorists or guerrillas which insinuated that what they were doing was wrong. Even Nelson Mandela who had been labelled a terrorist by the American government had that nullified in 2008. White supremacists referred to black Americans as negors and that term was rightly viewed as despising of the black race. 

Indeed, society has moved from such terms and the narrative is being rewritten and the history corrected. For disability though this seems to be a long way away judging from the language and misuse of terms in describing persons with disabilities. 

For starters, persons with disabilities are still referred to as “people living with disabilities”. From the newsroom to the legislature, to the Church and even the private sector, the description remains the same. Artists, especially musicians are also culprits but I will expand this in the next insert. To put it into some perspective, the Genesis of the “people living with” tag was as a way of fighting stigma. People living with HIV came up with the phrase because everyone with the virus had a death sentence passed by the society on them. So as a way of fighting this the term “people living with” was coined. However, no one has died or can potentially die from an impairment or a disability meaning that the “people living” term does not and cannot therefore apply. In actual fact those of us with impairments only have disabilities when our impairments interact with an unfriendly environment such as giving printed signs to someone with a visual impairment, not having interpretation for someone with a speech impairment or asking someone with a physical impairment to use the stairs when on a wheelchair. 

Notwithstanding the fact that on September 23 2013 the parliament of Zimbabwe ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, even the parliamentarians themselves seem ignorant. This was clearly on show on May 10 during the questions without notice session where even the minister of Public Service, Labour and social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira in an attempt to correct a parliamentarian who had used the wrong term also referred to us as people living with disabilities. 

As the fourth estate I believe that the media has a big role to play in changing this mind-set and terminology. However, despite spirited attempts to have editors in newsrooms change this, up to now all attempts seem to be yielding little. This is a problem across the board as shown by the following headlines in the leading tabloids in Zimbabwe: 
There’s an urgent need for Zimbabwe to fully embrace a rights-based approach to disability and using the right terminology would be a good entry point. The fourth estate can help by not reinforcing the wrong terms and maybe our artists, especially musicians may take a queue. This use of proper terms will start changing the mind-set not only of the various communities where persons with disabilities reside but also help to change and shape government and legislative policy which up to now sadly views persons with disabilities as objects of charity. As a disability rights activist and advocate I offer myself to train and work with legislators, editors, journalists, religious leaders and captains of industry who would want to be part of this mind-set shift. 

Perhaps including those with disabilities to speak for themselves in newsrooms, boardrooms, pulpits and houses of parliament in their number will shorten the time it will take to cause the mind-set shift. To fellow colleagues with disabilities, let this be a rallying call to increase our participation where it matters most. Together we can go far, aluta continua!!