Plight of disabled young people

OPINION – FOR years the plight of people living with disabilities hasnot only been neglected but ignored by those in authority to such an extentthat such people have rarely, if ever featured in national planning and theeffects have been so telling especially in young people and has left many withunanswered questions.

Since the country attained Independence in 1980, there hasbeen no meaningful commitment on the part of the government in addressingissues that affect disabled young people in their daily lives. In most cases,it appears that the government has taken a back seat, leaving a feworganisations bearing the burden of taking care of the needs of the disabled.

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However, no matter how hard private players try to addressthe plight of this vulnerable group, their efforts have always counted tonothing because they are not backed by a serious legislative framework.

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

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The festival was held under the theme, “Navigating andRe-negotiating Marginality: Cultural and Artistic dimensions was hosted by theTheatre Arts department’s Disability Resource Centre (DRC) with support fromthe Student Solidarity Trust and the Culture Fund.

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This year’s event was the second such programme after the inauguralevent in March last year and focused on arts, culture and nationhood.

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Speaking during the Arts Week,Chairman of the department Mr Nicodemus Chivandikwa said that this year’s eventresonate well with current debates in gender, development literature andpopular culture.

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The performances and academicpapers that were presented managed to shed light on relevant social, political,cultural and economic issues facing communities and the society at large.

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Despite the fact that disabledpeople constitute about 10 percent of the country’s population, this figure hasfailed to translate to resource allocation by the fiscus, a situation which hasleft those living with disabilities scrambling for a few crumbs from the tablesof whom those same disabled people thrust into public offices.

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One youth who spoke to thisreporter on condition he was not named said that what was worrying him was thefact that those in authority do not realize that they can as well becomedisabled at any time hence the need of a concerted effort among allstakeholders to ensure that the burden of people living with disabilities islessened.

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“I was actually not borndisabled, this condition came about when I got injured and the injury wasworsened by my doctor to become a permanent disability,” he said.

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He said that it has not beeneasy coping with the cultural, social and psychological challenges that comealong with his new identity and ignorance on the part of the government has nothelped matters.

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Other young people at the eventchronicled sad stories, all of which called for immediate government attention.

Francis Rwodzi is a Journalist based in Harare and Editor of The New Age Voices published by Youth Agenda Trust. The New Age Voices, Youth Agenda Trust, 6 Sandford Crescent, Eastlea, Harare,  +263733855166, +263775059130