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Persons with disabilities share expectations for the upcoming elections

Perseverance Javangwe

Persons with disabilities are eagerly anticipating the coming harmonized elections, where they hope to see their concerns and needs adequately addressed by political candidates. As valuable members of society, they seek inclusive policies and improved accessibility measures that would enhance their participation in the democratic process.

Chrisphen Ncube a person with a disability who resides in Mbizo Section 6, and crushes quarry stones as well as making detergents for a living together with his family stated that there is a need for politicians to consider persons with disabilities all the time other than just the Election Day only. He also said there is a need for leaders to involve persons with disabilities in income-generating projects just like what they do to able-bodied people without discrimination.

“…on Election Day, PWDs will be the Kings and Queens. Politicians will come with their cars, and carry us to the polling station. While at the polling station, we will be respected, and given the green light to go in front of the queue to vote. On that particular day, even those who are older than us will be humbling themselves and respecting us. If my hands are not able to carry all my particulars including the ID etc, they will assist by carrying it for us, and show us how to cast a vote and which ballot box to use. But once you are out of the polling station they will no longer care for you. Those politicians who ferried us from home will be nowhere to be found, and we have to find our way back home. So all they want from us is just our vote and nothing else.

“…we are invisible to them. They do not even know how we survive. They do not even look at us as PWDs. They are not even able to bring us together as PWDs and listen to our grievances to see how we can be assisted. If there are projects that are being implemented, for example, if there are stands that are being offered, as PWDs we are nowhere to be found in such projects. Sometimes when you are notified, the requirements will be unbearable for PWDs that include us, so end result you just tell yourself that this is not for us.

 “We expect to be treated just like any other human beings living in Zimbabwe. We should also be able to own businesses just like other people. Some able-bodied people own a lot of houses, and shops and we also expect people like us to be in the same category of being able to own such. There should be equal accessibility to doing business. We expect the government to always check on us to see how as PWDs we are doing in our day-to-day lives, because we do not have the same strength with the abled-bodied to do a lot of work. Oftentimes we are limited as PWDs because of our situations we are not able to get everything that other people are getting,” said Ncube.

Another crucial expectation revolves around education and employment. Persons with disabilities seek policies that promote inclusive educational institutions, ensuring that they have the same opportunities as their peers. Enhancing vocational training and incentivizing employers to provide accessible workplaces are seen as vital steps towards reducing unemployment rates among individuals with disabilities and fostering inclusivity in the workplace. Speaking in an Interview with this reporter Young Voices Disability Zimbabwe Director Nyasha Mahwende explained of these issues, and what she expects from leaders.

Nyasha Mahwende

“We need inclusive schools where PWDs are included in those schools. Furthermore, the government should make sure that in those schools, there are teachers who understand brail and also sign language. They have to make sure that everything that is required by persons with disabilities is provided. They should make sure that persons with Albinism, who are short-sighted will be catered for. There is also a need to make sure that there are teachers who really understand children with disabilities, and have patience with them so that they are well educated. If a child needs two years to understand the grade 1 curriculum, for example, there is a need to have patients with such children until they understand.

“In terms of transportation, there must be buses that cater to PWDs with their wheelchairs. We should do away with the issue of having to lift PWDs from their wheelchairs and place them on bus sits, but rather we should have flexible buses where PWDs are lifted with their wheelchairs and placed on a better place in the bus. We should make sure that all PWDs with physical challenges do not have a challenge when boarding buses.

In terms of financial assistants, we have persons with disabilities who are not able to work, some are not able to wake up from where they will be sleeping, and such people need assistants. Even people who offer aid to such PWDs need to be assisted so that they keep doing great work. We have PWDs who no longer have relatives and rely on others to offer aid, such people should be assisted. Then we have other PWDs, who are like me and can do some chores. Such people should be given the opportunity to get jobs, in shops, companies, even a job sweeping the offices or the shops will be okay. There is also a need to empower such people with income-generating projects,” said Mahwende.

Mahwende further mentioned that the healthcare system is yet another area of concern. Persons with disabilities anticipate substantial improvements in healthcare policies, including better access to specialized services, therapies, and assistive devices. They hope to see candidates addressing issues such as the affordability and availability of healthcare, prescription drugs, and rehabilitation services, as well as ensuring accessibility in healthcare facilities.

“There are PWDs who have been affected probably during accidents, and some paraplegics and have to use catheters to remove waste from the body. Such material, however, should be bought on a daily basis so that they do not develop infections. There are also PWDs who always require diapers, and cannot control their bowls, so there is a need for the government to supply these materials for free. In the health sector we should develop health desks, for example, in every City/Town Council there should be a health desk that assists PWDs with all their requirements,” she said.

Moreover, persons with disabilities are eager to witness candidates prioritizing their input and actively seeking their perspectives. They hope to see political campaigns engaging with disability organizations and actively soliciting their ideas on policies that can improve the lives of individuals affected by disabilities. By promoting dialogue and creating inclusive platforms, candidates can ensure that their election campaigns are genuinely representative of all members of society.

Howard Masaninga

Howard Masaninga of Mbizo Section 1 stated that there is a need for persons with disabilities to be empowered so that they are not a burden to people in the community. He also added that there is a need to address the issue of the Public Assistant (PA) fund that is meant to assist persons with disabilities.

“I think the government should address challenges facing persons with disabilities because until and unless these issues were addressed we will continue to be viewed as charity cases or burdens to the government and people around us. Because when it comes to children with disabilities when they go to school they have to be pushed on their wheelchairs, they have to be assisted in clothing, they have to be assisted in eating, and a lot of things. When it comes to adults they also so have the same challenges, they need transportation, they have to be assisted from one place to the other. All these challenges should be provided for somehow such that we do not become a burden to our families.

“…we need a system that has a periodical engagement or maybe a consultation with persons with disabilities. From the lowest level who should be engaging us, for example, the Social Welfare department has what is called the PA fund that is being given to persons with disabilities, but how many of us are receiving that fund? Probably less than two hundred people, but we have more than 500 of us or more than 1000 persons with disabilities, and the most deserving people are excluded from that fund. For us to get that fund we go through a rigorous process with the social welfare department. I think when one is disabled you can actually see without interrogating whether one is disabled or not, and do we have to be interviewed for four hours to be ascertained as a disabled person, no. I think the system has to change, particularly with the social welfare, especially with the way they are handling the funds has to change so that it is accommodative to every person with a disability from the children to the elderly,” said Masaninga.

Another primary expectation voiced by persons with disabilities is the implementation of comprehensive and inclusive legislative initiatives. They emphasize the need for laws that safeguard their rights and provide equal opportunities for political engagement.

“We expect that people with disabilities be considered in all departments. We expect PWDs to be in all ministries, Ministry of Youths, Ministry of Mining, etc. There is nothing for us without us especially in terms of PWDs legislation. So if we can have PWDs representing us in policy formulations that will assist us, in order for our issues to be considered. They should give us a quarter system to for PWDs so that we also get to be part of deliberations in the House of Assembly,” said Mahwende.

Called for a comment Annah Shiri who is the Disability Constituency Female Candidate for the Senatorial position responded to this reporter by sending her manifesto for the coming elections. In the Manifesto she stated that her target is to make sure that the rights and full empowerment of PWDs are recognized, and upheld.

“My candidacy for the Senatorial position to represent PWDs in Zimbabwe is rooted in a deep commitment to advocating for the rights and full empowerment of PWDs. By embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity, we can transform Zimbabwe into a nation that values and supports the aspirations of all its citizens, regardless of their disabilities. I, therefore, call upon the community of persons with disabilities and all other development partners to join me in this campaign towards realising an inclusive representation. Together, let us build a society where the rights, talents, and contributions of PWDs are acknowledged and celebrated. I urge you to secure a bright future that is before you by simply casting your vote,” she said in the Manifesto.

Finally, persons with disabilities look forward to increased representation at all levels of government. They emphasize the importance of electing officials who understand the challenges faced by disabled individuals, and who actively work towards dismantling barriers and promoting inclusivity. This representation would provide an essential platform for advocating for their rights and enhancing their quality of life.

In conclusion, persons with disabilities have high hopes for the upcoming elections. They eagerly anticipate the implementation of inclusive policies, increased accessibility, active engagement from candidates, improved education and employment opportunities, enhanced healthcare services, and increased political representation. It is essential for political leaders to address these expectations and work towards creating a society that values and includes all its members, regardless of their abilities.

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