Copac chief denies snubbing disabled

The parliamentary constitutional select committee (COPAC) has come under heavy attack from associations and organizations representing people living with disabilities.


There has been an outcry over the lack of recognition of people living with disabilities in the first draft constitution leaked to the media recently.

The Director of Zimbabwe National Association of the Deaf, Christine Sithole, said there was not much awareness regarding the constitution-making process among people living with disabilities, and as a result, most of them did not participate.

“Available statistics indicates that only one percent of the disabled can access information through reading. The draft constitution only highlighted physical challenges and mental illness – leaving out other forms of disability,” she said.

Sithole added that if people living with disabilities are not fully considered in the new constitution, they will continue to be side-lined. But COPAC co-chairperson, Douglas Mwonzora said people living with disabilities were included in the new constitution.

“We urge endurance of all the stakeholders while we are drafting the new constitution,” he said. “We are going to make sure that the new law observes everyone’s rights.”

Save the Children Norway reported in 2004 that sexual abuse of children with disabilities was increasing, and that 87.4 percent of girls with disabilities had been sexually abused.

Approximately 48 percent of these girls were deaf and mentally challenged, 15.7 percent had hearing impairments and 25.3 percent had visible physical disabilities. Of those who had been sexually abused, 52.4 percent tested positive for HIV.

The report also noted that access to counselling, testing and treatment was severely limited for this group while health personnel often shunned people with disabilities.

Vice President of Street Net International, Beauty Mugijima, said there was need to empower and involve people with disabilities in the formulation and implementation of social and economic policies.

“The government should allocate sufficient funds to ministries and departments dealing with people with disabilities and establish national committees to coordinate all disability issues,” she added.

According to study conducted by the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped last year, only 2 percent of the people with disabilities are employed in the public sector and less than 7 percent of people with disabilities are in employment.

Institutions such as Jairos Jiri Centre, Copota School, Danhiko and the Chinyaradzo Children’s Home which used to take care of people with disabilities used to get financial support from the government and the corporate world, but the economic quandary that rocked Zimbabwe since 1999 saw the withdrawal of aid, forcing the disabled to opt for street life.

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