By Esther Onyegbula & Chizobaem Eze
In a world where regular people face various degrees of violence and abuses, you can imagine how difficult the life of persons with disability especially women can get. In a bid to rescue women with disability from violence and abuse project Alert has embarked on sensitizing campaign to educate and empower disable women.
In this chat with Vanguard Nsini Udonta, Project Alert shares more insight on the need to protect disabled women from violence and abuses, benefit of disabled people to register with the Lagos State Office of Disability Affair. Superstitions surrounding disabled persons and other issues.
Why focus more on disabled women
Currently we have over 24 million people in Nigerian who are living with one form of disability or the other. We are focused more on women because, women with disability are prone to physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and commonly abused. Most times they are raped, especially the deaf are raped. We have heard of a disabled woman, 82 year old women on the wheel chair are raped, so we need to protect them and we need to tell people that this is crime and it is punishable, so they economically abused most of them don’t have work, we need to provide jobs for them. We need to provide information for them when there is a job opportunity.
How has your organization been able to help women living with disability?
We render practical support service to disabled women who are victims of abuse. Depending on their case we provide them with legal aid, in extreme cases we provide shelter, our shelter is somewhere here in Lagos State which we cannot disclose the location for security purpose and then we also have the Lawyer that can represent them if the woman or a girl is been abused, we have the lawyers that can write petitions and the police will go and arrest them, we also do skills advocacy, skills empowerment for woman.
Apart from championing the cause of disabled women, do you have other projects?
We also carry out human right education, under human right education we have project some is school base advocacy, maybe we go to so some schools to talk to student on sexual violence because we where learnt that most of them are the victims, most of them are the perpetrators, so we use that avenue to talk to them so that they will not involve in it, what they should do to get help, now we also have male involvement project alert whereby we be champion on violence against women because if a man is been talk about violence on, he will understand it better than a woman talking about it.
What is LASODA all about?
LASODA is an agency for people living with disability. It simply means Lagos State Office of Disability Affair. Disabled persons who register with the agency get some benefit, like the free bus, free medical in government hospital. Because a lot of persons don’t know about the agency we have informed traditional rulers in different communities in Lagos to encourage disabled persons in their communities to register with Lagos State Office of Disability Affair.
What are some of the challenges faced by disabled women?
You know we are in Africa, there are so many marital, superstitious beliefs about people with disability like most times they classify people, as Osha (ogbanje). Some people say that is because of the sins that their mother committed that has caused the disability.
Disabled women are stigmatized, discriminated against for something they don’t know or something they cannot change. Disability can occur to anyone at any time, it could be through disease, he could be born with it, it could be through accident. Disability can happen at any time.
In our society women with disability are excluded from a lot of activities. Some parents still lock up their children with disability in the house. I know of a 34 year old man that was locked in the house for 34 years because he is deaf. And because they don’t want to be stigmatize by people, by society and the community they locked up their son.
What is the way forward?
This is the era of civilization and technology; there are a lot of things that can be done to help disabled women. They can be trained in sign language so that we can educate them so they will be included in everything we are doing. Women with disability have sexual needs like other women. They are human and should be treated as human. Disability can’t be transferred by birth. Funny enough some educated persons believe that disability is transferable; it is not.