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close this bookSustainable Development and Persons with Disabilities: The Process of Self-Empowerment (ADF, 1995, 117 p.)
close this folderSection II: Building economic self-reliance
close this folderChapter 9: Capacity building: Skills training and institution building
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEmpowerment
View the documentThe pedagogy of disability training
View the documentWomen with disabilities and capacity building for IGPs
View the documentAction guidelines

Women with disabilities and capacity building for IGPs

Once again, when it comes to "capacity building" it is necessary to make a special case for women with disabilities (WWDs). Generally women are among the disadvantaged groups but those with disabilities are even more disadvantaged. At the Entebbe Workshop they expressed the following anxieties:

· Lack of education and training;

· As a consequence they lack skills;

· They, therefore, remain unemployed.

· They stay too poor to meet even the basic living expenses like housing, food, appliances and educating their children, and therefore they live dependent lives.

· They lack awareness of their rights;

· This results in their being socially abused.

· There is also the problem of inaccessible public places.

· They are deprived of employment opportunities and health services.

· They lack confidence as they are left out of the development process.

· Even within the disability movement, their representation is often not in proportion to their numbers.

A "Top-down" Chain of Command

Source: D. Werner, Disabled Village Children

A "Bottom-up" Approach

Source: D. Werner, Disabled Village Children

The women at the Entebbe Workshop decided that they must hold awareness raising workshops for:

· the families, communities, institutions like schools, governments, and policy makers.

· fellow disabled women on rights, services available, and their role in society.

· disabled children, especially counselling and guidance to disabled girls and their parents.

Grace Mashayamombe and Alexander Phiri of Zimbabwe during a role play on seeking employment. (Photo by Marla Feldman)

The ILO runs a project in Zimbabwe called "Improved Livelihood for Disabled Women." It is funded by Germany. It is primarily a promotional programme, i.e., its main objective is to change society's perception of women with disabilities. The main problem of People With Disabilities (PWDs) is not their disability but rather society's negative attitude towards them. These negative attitudes deprive them (PWDs) of adequate education, training, employment and marriage. It generally excludes WWDs from participating in all mainstream activities. Yet these activities are very important in one's life.

Therefore the project aims at integrating women with disabilities in particular, and PWDs in general, in the main stream community activities. The programme utilizes income generating activity as a tool to integrate women with disabilities in the mainstream economic life.

Dorothy Musakanya and Euphrasia Mbewe of Zambia communicating in sign language. (Photo by Marla Feldman)

In order to be productive, women with disabilities need various types of appliances which are essential for their full participation in various activities. These are supplied under the programme. The use of appropriate appliances increases their self-confidence and self-esteem. For instance, a woman might be crawling, but if she is given a wheelchair her mobility is facilitated and she can do a lot more. It also helps to restore her self-confidence.

The Entebbe Workshop recommended that organisations of disabled persons should encourage the participation of disabled women by ensuring that they have at least 50 percent representation in decision making, designing, planning, implementation and evaluation of various programmes.

The question, however, is what strategies could be used to empower women with disabilities? The workshop recommended the following:

· Women should identify the factors or reasons why they are poor. After identifying these factors, they will at least be conscious about what to do with them. Women should participate in decision making in the household. This will empower them.

· They should choose their own leaders.

· Women should demand their rights and should form groups and clubs for lobbying and advocacy purposes.

· They should struggle to get education and to attain equality.

· Disabled women, through their governments, should be encouraged to promote equalisation of opportunities in legislation.

· Disabled women should conduct legal education programmes to achieve legal empowerment.

· Sign language development should involve deaf women.

· Disabled women should take up the initiative of joining other women to promote integration and mainstreaming.

· Men should identify and share the specialized skills they have acquired with women without dominating them.

· Laws should be enacted to protect disabled women and children. The biological fathers of the children abandon them and leave the burden to the disabled mothers.

· The United Nations system and ILO should give more consideration to supporting disabled women initiatives in their programmes.

· Often forgotten are a special group of women who bear the burden of day-to-day care of severely disabled children and adults. They need also to be supported and their IGPs provided for.