About 650 million people in the world-or 10 percent of the world’s population- live with disabilities.
These frequently encounter many physical and social obstacles and are often marginalised.
Women Institute on Leadership and Disability (Wild) Malawi dares to be different. They want to be loud, proud and passionate; to stand up and have their voices heard and exercise their rights.
Straight out of an international Wild training programme in Eugene, Oregon, USA three months ago, Wild representative for 2016, Scader Louis said the grouping is geared at strengthening the voice of women with disabilities in the country by increasing access to information on reproductive health, gender based violence, educational and employment opportunities.
As one step to achieving these goals, Wild Malawi brought together women with different disabilities in Bvumbwe Township, where they were exposed to awareness about breast and cervical cancer, women empowerment and HIV and Aids, among other things.
“The idea of this workshop was to come up with one voice on what we want as citizens of the country. Our emphasis is to have rights as women with disabilities.
“So, the messages we have are reaching all age groups; to support each other according to our disabilities and also offer solutions to government on issues that affect us,” she says.
She said the training was funded by Mobility Institute of United States of America (Miusa) and Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma).
Louis noted that there is lack of access to certain facilities, including public toilets, buildings and websites, among other things.
“Government needs to do more. It is high time they put into action the things they promise to do for people with disabilities in the country,” she said.
One of the facilitators at the workshop, Patricia Sundu reminded the women and girls that they have a purpose in life regardless of disability and that it would take their acknowledging that God created them for a reason.
“I have seen a lot of women empowered through groupings such as this. They just need to develop their confidence, learn new things and learn from each other. Together they can make a difference,” said Sundu.
Representing the Blantyre City Mayor as guest of honour, Nyambadwe Ward Councillor Leonard Chibade said the council was also ready to work with the group.
“We acknowledge that most people with disabilities have challenges accessing top floors of some offices in the city and that most of the public toilets are also not accessible. We will construct 100 public toilets to be easily accessible by people with disabilities,” he said.
The workshop was held under the theme Building a unified voice in achieving human rights for women and girls with disabilities in Malawi.