The right to education, health, participation, and employment, among others, are not additional, but full rights of those with disabilities. The disabled form a significant part of South Sudan’s population, but are they enjoying their rights?
A day after marking the internationally recognized day, they played a perfect football match in Yei. It was team A against team B—both were disabled. Approximately, 3,000 people gathered at Yei Freedom Square to watch them use their crutches to play football.From the start, many spectators doubted whether they could even score a single goal. Spectators nodded their heads, clapped, and ululated in the course of the 90 minutes.The result ended with team B defeating team A six goals to one. And they did not hesitate to say “disability is not inability” after the end of the game.
These are same people to whom we attribute all sorts of names, and intentionally neglect them by denying them their human right to participate. On a daily basis, persons with disabilities suffer stigma from those who call themselves able-bodied persons. The evil of our tongues—nicknames and insults - while the demonic hands and legs beat and kick them. With the gun, we go violent against them in a hostile environment that is enduring decades of civil war.
Annually, we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, expressing our support and solidarity with them.On this day, we raise awareness and ensure them of our solidarity with them. But, do we put into practice what we pledge, legislate, and say?
South Sudan has a very high number of people with disabilities – 77,012, constituting 13.6% of the population, according to the ministry of gender, child and social development.This is so because of the civil war. Looking at the breakdown of that figure into categories, 52, 949 are children, 6,320 demobilized soldiers and 17,743 are orphans.
Following the shocking testimonies by persons with disabilities and activists about the stigma and discrimination perpetuated against them, responding to it should not be taken lightly. Recently, a woman with a disability shared a story how she witnessed another woman with a disability being denied to marry. Another one narrated the locking of four children with various disabilities in a house by their family because they are “useless.” Another one talked of defilement, rape, as well as intentional impregnation and abandonment. With a lot of dreadful testimonies, a church leader finally said a high profile official slept with a woman with disability in a church’s guest house and then ran away. These unfortunate actions are all done by able-bodied persons to their brothers and sisters with disabilities.
South Sudan’s civil wars are not just killing but leaving marks of different forms of disabilities, especially physical, with increased cases of stigma and discrimination being reported. Nicknaming a person with disability because of his or her disability is completely wrong, and we must stop the practice. Don’t call a person with his or her disability but use their name.I don’t want to go further explaining some of the stigmatizing names people often use to describe persons with disabilities but in short,“Stop it now!” Watch out, for that person who is being mocked did not plan to be disabled.Some people like imitating the look or movement of a person with disability and use it for insults or jokes.
Our buildings favour able-bodied persons
Our buildings favour able-bodied person. A good example is Yei Freedom Square, a public place for conducting functions, just reminds them how much they are neglected. Its facilities do not take into account the needs of those with disabilities. Those with wheel chairs have to crawl on the ground while able-bodied persons carry their seats to the place organized for them.
Persons with disabilities deserve full participation and enjoyment of their rights and freedoms as stipulated in the Country’s Transitional Constitution 2011.The constitution in Article 30, Subsection 2 grants them right to respect of their dignity and to enjoy all services:
All levels of government shall guarantee to persons with special needs participation in society and the enjoyment of rights and freedoms set out in this constitution, especially access to public utilities, suitable education and employment,” subsection (1) says, “They shall be provided the necessary care and medical services,” stated part of subsection (2) of the article.
In cities and towns, very many persons with disabilities, the mentally disabled, or visually impaired, in particular, go to the streets to beg because they are unable to support themselves. Some sit in hotels or restaurants waiting for food from good Samaritans, who could give out a few shillings for a meal.
Can we learn to share or help the poorest in our population?
Can we learn to share or help the poorest in our population? Do you expect him or her to just consume your left overs? It’s unfair and ungodly. Having riches is not bad; but if you don’t use them constructively, then they will turn you away from the face of God.
The alarms are ringing loud, stressing the need to support persons with disabilities. To realize equality, South Sudan policies and laws should be implemented to promote awareness of the plight of the disabled. This awareness raising should not just be for one day like what usually happens on international days.
Sometimes, one wonders if there are even funds allocated for activities or needs of persons with disabilities. Why not fund their associations or unions? Currently, only a few partners are doing that. They are remembered on this day, either given a T-shirt or food, and then they get to meet again the following year. It’s obvious that if funds allocated for the disabled are not properly utilized, then their suffering is prolonged and accumulated.
According to the Bible, Jesus demonstrated His endless love for all people. He cured the sick, gave sight to the blind and raised the disabled.The first and greatest commandment, Jesus says is from St. Matthew 22:37 which says, “You shall love the lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” He continues telling his disciplines about the second and greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” This is teaching us about the need to share and help the poor by implementing laws and policies that focus on people with disabilities. Let our actions to improve the lives and dignity of persons with disabilities speak louder than the words we utter on our radios, televisions, in public events, or online.