Youth with Disabilities Resolve to Affirm their Identity
26 July 2018
The Youth Day Disability Awareness Event that was held at the busy Soshanguve Crossing Mall on Saturday, 16 June 2018 attracted a throng of young persons with disabilities together with their abled-bodied counterparts.
The abiding objective of the event was for the youth disability sector to introspect and identify challenges that impede their active participation in social spaces and economic activities. “This was critical a departure from the conventional figure-pointing exercise, which favours blame-apportioning rather than the realistic introspective approach that we evangelize”, said Lucky Netshidzati, CEO of Rudzambilu Holdings, which was organizing the event.
An array of topics were ventilated on, from persons with disabilities building and projecting a positive image of themselves to being assertive, even amidst hostile social environs. Also encouraged were the acquisition of requisite entrepreneurial skills which would free youth with disabilities from economic dependency and assure them an equal share of the economic pie.
“I am aware of my physical inadequacies and limitations. I have come to accept myself the way I am. My plea to society in general and my abled-bodied peers is not to judge me based on my apparent limitations but to accept me as an equal, with a functioning brain, capabilities and skills”, passionately appealed Tsetsane Nkeletseng, a youth activist with a disability.
Also under focus was the dwindling financial support for learnerships for persons with disabilities which according to Pearl Makhubu, a disability specialist, “was a ticking timebomb, which will ensure the demise of a skills base for this sector”.
Alex Malepane, an author, motivational speaker and disability activist called on government to take disability seriously and lamented how persons with disabilities are “particularly disadvantaged when it comes to accessing education, health care, banking and many other services”.
Malepane said avidly, “I would like to propose the following to the President of our country Hon. Cyril Ramaphosa; Health care services should be prioritised for people living with disability. In fact, persons with disabilities should access private care facilities for free.
Furthermore, it should be compulsory for any government meeting or community meeting to have a sign language interpreter and have information including programmes and other documents readily made to suit people with visual challenges”.
Commenting on the location of Disability within government’s structures, Malepane requested the President’s Office to “consider establishing a dedicated ministry for persons with disabilities”.
“Honourable President, have a dedicated day in the national calendar for persons with disabilities. If 7.5% (4.12 million) of the population are persons with disabilities, surely this calls for your attention” he further challenged.
“What is evident from what this event solicited is that there is urgent need for disability to feature prominently in all social, economic and developmental agenda and that persons with disabilities should not be excluded in intended discourses and interventions,” said Lucky Netshidzati.
Charting the way forward, he noted the importance of “rolling out this programme throughout the country to allow for further inter-and-intra societal dialogue, which should be practical and outcomes oriented”.
“I am pleading with parents or families not to hide persons with disabilities in their midst as this pervasive practice robs them of their self-esteem and negates their human rights”, he concluded.
By Edwin Rihlamvu