Plight of disabled young people: Gvt fast asleep

FOR years the plight of people living with disabilities has not only been neglected but ignored by those in authority to such an extent that such people have rarely, if ever featured in national planning and the effects have been so telling especially in young people and has left many with unanswered questions.

Since the country attained Independence in 1980, there has been no meaningful commitment on the part of the government in addressing issues that affect disabled young people in their daily lives. In most cases, it appears that the government has taken a back seat, leaving a few organisations bearing the burden of taking care of the needs of the disabled. However, no matter how hard private players try to address the plight of this vulnerable group, their efforts have always counted to nothing because they are not backed by a serious legislative framework.

The disability arts festival that was held at the University of Zimbabwe during the Theatre Arts Week at the beginning of this month exposed the glaring shortcomings on the part of the government in adequately meeting the demands of young people living with disabilities.

The festival was held under the theme, Navigating and Re-negotiating Marginality: Cultural and Artistic dimensions was hosted by the Theatre Arts departments Disability Resource Centre (DRC) with support from the Student Solidarity Trust and the Culture Fund.

This years event was the second such programme after the inaugural event in March last year and focused on arts, culture and nationhood. Speaking during the Arts Week, Chairman of the department Mr Nicodemus Chivandikwa said that this years event resonate well with current debates in gender, development literature and popular culture. The performances and academic papers that were presented managed to shed light on relevant social, political, cultural and economic issues facing communities and the society at large.

Despite the fact that disabled people constitute about 10 percent of the countrys population, this figure has failed to translate to resource allocation by the fiscus, a situation which has left those living with disabilities scrambling for a few crumbs from the tables of whom those same disabled people thrust into public offices.

One youth who spoke to this reporter on condition he was not named said that what was worrying him was the fact that those in authority do not realize that they can as well become disabled at any time hence the need of a concerted effort among all stakeholders to ensure that the burden of people living with disabilities is lessened.

I was actually not born disabled, this condition came about when I got injured and the injury was worsened by my doctor to become a permanent disability, he said. He said that it has not been easy coping with the cultural, social and psychological challenges that come along with his new identity and ignorance on the part of the government has not helped matters. Other young people at the event chronicled sad stories, all of which called for immediate government attention.

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