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Disabled Zimbabweans Facing Serious Challenges

Disabled people continue to face barriers to equal participation in all aspects of life, the National Council of Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe (NCDPZ) revealed as the world Monday marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The United Nations set aside December 3 to promote an understanding of disability issues and to mobilize support for the dignity and rights of people with disabilities.

This year’s theme is: ‘Removing Barriers and Creating an Accessible Society for All’.

But NCDPZ president Farai Cherera told VOA society continues to have negative attitudes towards people with disabilities, adding that they remain poor and on the sidelines of national development programs, including the indigenization and economic empowerment drive.
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Cherera said her organization is pushing Harare to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People enabling those with disabilities to live independently and participate in all aspects of life and development.

“Persons with disabilities continue to be the poorest of the poor mainly due to the unfavorable economic situation and predominantly because of the negative attitudes society continues to have towards people with disabilities,” Cherera said.

Ishmael Zhou, chairperson of the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped and executive director of the Zimbabwe National League of the Blind, said his organization is concerned that the government did not observe this year’s commemorations.
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“Since the formation of the GNU (Government of National Unity) we have seen a decline of state support for people with disabilities. For instance people with disabilities used to receive monthly allowances in the form of public assistance but that has since stopped,” Zhou said.

Zanu PF non-constituency senator and disability activist Joshua Malinga said although challenges faced by people living with disabilities have been raised in parliament, little has been done to address the crisis.
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Malinga said Zimbabwe is now lagging behind many countries in Africa despite having come out with the “first ever legislation for disabled people in Africa.”

He said the situation changed for the worst from the late 1980s. “Our rights are not being respected and if you look at the theme of this year, we have no access to all community services, be it in education or transport.”

Malinga noted that “anything that people take for granted, disabled people cannot access that.”