Human Rights Day 2018 – Highlights

Today on this Human Rights day (10 December) we marked the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The day also marks the end of the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence.  How are we tracking on all these? And a simpler question, what has impacted you the most during these last 16 days?

We will share a few posts that have resonated with us.

  • An interview by Dr Mercy Korir and persons with vitiligo in Kenya (KTN News). What struck us was how open and vulnerable the young people were in responding to the questions raised, and how society has shown rejection rather than inclusion and acceptance. We can be better, do better.

 

  • The #In Her Shoes# campaign by HIVOS East Africa on Ending Gender Based Violence. The images were vivid and spoke loudly. Below are two images from the campaign.

 

  • And last but not least, an inclusion campaign by CBM Australia to mark the International Day of Persons with Disability 2018 with the theme #Dont Underestimate Me#
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2018 World AIDS Day and The International Day for Persons with Disability

Over the next few days we will be marking two pivotal days; the World AIDS day today and the International Day for Persons with Disability (IDPWD) on 3 December. These will happen concurrently within the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence that runs from 25 November to 10 December every year.

World AIDS Day:Today marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, set to raise awareness about HIV and the HIV epidemic. UNAIDS notes that 940,000 died from AIDS related illness in 2017, despite advances in medical treatment. This  represents a 51 per cent drop from its peak of 1.9 million in 2004.

2018 theme: Know your status

There are currently 36.9 million people living with HIV around the world, 1.8 million of whom are children aged under 15 and another 1.8 million who are newly infected every year.

Of this, 21.7 million are currently accessing antiretroviral therapy which is up by eight million since 2010, an indication of increased awareness and  more proactive testing and treatment.

The International Day of Persons with Disability (IDPWD) is marked annually on 3 December. The theme for 2018 is ‘Empowering Persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’. The focus of the theme is on inclusive, equitable and sustainable development envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG).

Food for thought on this IDPWD 2018

Finally as we mark these days, the concept of intersectionality comes up.
The Intersectional theory asserts that people are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression: their race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and other identity markers. Intersectionality comes up as we mark these days, because evidence shows that women with disabilities are more vulnerable to gender based abuse and at higher risk of exposure to HIV and AIDS. Persons living with HIV or AIDS are also at risk of disability on a permanent or episodic basis as a result of their condition.

More about intersectionality on this cartoon video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRiWgx4sHGg

 

 

16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence 2018

The annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence runs from November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) until December 10th (Human Rights Day).

The 16 Days Campaign has been running every year since 1991 and you can read more about its history here.

This year’s theme is “End Gender Based Violence in the World of Work”.  An action and advocacy kit can be downloaded here.  It has been produced by the Prevent GBV Network, a network of over 500 organisations across the African continent.

During the 16 Days period, there are a wide range of events taking place globally.  A few examples can be found by clicking on the relevant country – Liberia, Singapore, Malta.

Please spend some time reviewing this excellent and comprehensive infographic on Violence Against Women from UN Women that is also available in French and Spanish, as well as English.

Why Diversity & Inclusion Matter

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Diversity and Inclusion is often perceived as a “nice extra” but not necessarily essential to the success of an organisation or company.  A growing body of research is, however, also developing a strong business case for Workplace Inclusion in addition to the moral and ethical imperative.

Catalyst (Workplaces that Work for Women) has compiled a detailed summary of this business case and this can be viewed here.   Evidence is presented here that workplace Inclusion has positive impacts on Teamwork, Leadership, Financial Performance and Innovation, among others.

Specific evidence from India on the business case for Inclusion is also detailed in a 2010 report entitled “How Companies in India are leveraging the Business Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion.”

MARC (Men Advocating for Real Change) is a learning community created by Catalyst for professionals committed to achieving equality in the workplace. MARC empowers community members, both men and women, to engage in candid conversations about gender and inequality, its impact in the workplace, and how to lead change through member-generated advice, insights, and best practices.  Please also check the Catalyst page on Men and Equality.

Finally, we would like to encourage everyone to take ACTION to promote Inclusion in their workplace (and other aspects of their lives).  You can get many practical ideas from this lovely piece called 50+ Ideas for Cultivating Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace.

 

Disability as an Attitude: A disabling Attitude? by Georgina Mumba


Disability is not inability. Disability is only in the mind. Do not call me disabled but a woman living with a disability. Do not call me visually impaired, I prefer being called blind. Disability is the interaction of impairments with the environment and people’s attitudes. These are some of the many positions people hold on the subject of disability. As a woman with a disability myself, I understand some of the challenges we face as a community and how we wish the rest of the world would interact with our disabilities and us as hosts of such disabilities. However, it is increasingly becoming obvious that ‘disability’ feels like a bad word and people are trying their hardest to disassociate with it.

 

First of all, in my view, from my lived experience no one can voluntarily elect to be disabled. There is absolutely nothing advantageous about being disabled in my view. Borrowing from the school of thought that disability is the interaction between an impairment, the environment and people’s attitudes I wish to paraphrase that indeed a disability is a limitation or a host of physical, health and/or mental limitations at a personal, environmental and in the interactions with people level. That collation of disadvantages to me is why I am of the opinion that nobody would voluntarily elect to be disabled because a disability is a key to all kinds of disadvantages more so in some forms, spaces, economic groups, genders etc.

However, the bone of contention with disability has always been about mankind’s feelings about disability and how those feelings spill over to the treatment of the host of the disability. I applaud the schools of thought that have done tremendous work in bringing us to today’s terminology of people living with disabilities because it is important to distinguish how we view disability and how we treat the hosts. By and large, disabilities negatively impact people’s lives and it is fine to be wary of that. It is fine to make efforts to prevent disabilities if we can. But how do we separate our contempt for disability, for lack of a better word, from the host? How do we positively have dialogue about the ills of disability without injuring the host? How do we attempt to manage disability without inferring we feel the host is a burden and throw them in a depressive mode? How do we encourage positive self-image of a disability host without pressuring them into a radical divorce from ‘disability’?

 

So why does it sometimes feel like disability is a bad word? Why are people with disabilities made to feel like besides trying to adapt to realities of living with a disability they must always endeavour to wash themselves clean of any association with disability? Why do we seem to be pushing mantras like a ‘disability is only in the mind’. Or the only disability is a bad attitude.’ Some people would go as far promoting the idea that it’s possible to have a disability but not be ‘disabled’. I applaud those who are disabled but declare they do not see themselves as disabled. If that thinking is empowering for them that is fine except when it starts becoming the gold standard of living with a disability. When it creates the impression disability is an attitude. In my view, that is condescending.

Disability is as real as daylight. The environment and people’s attitudes do play a very significant role in how it impacts someone’s impairment. As someone who is physically disabled, my environment plays a big role on how mobile I can manage to be. How independent I can be. And people’s attitudes toward my limitations similarly influence the scope of impact of my impairments on my life at large. What never goes away is the impairment. I am still physically challenged and that impairs me and at times, drains me too. I cannot psych myself out of that truth. Surely, my attitude too plays a big role but only to endure it. Not make it disappear. After a long day of endurance in my wheelchair I will go home and still face the pain of subjecting my impaired body to long hours in the wheelchair coupled with the impacts of transfers, bumpy roads etc. No amount of positive thinking, support system and modified assistive devices can take that away completely. Therefore, unless I can jump out of my wheelchair, walk and have every impaired bit of me restored, my disability just doesn’t disappear based on my own attitude, public attitudes and environmental adjustments. All these things help but only to reduce the scale of impact of the impairment on the lives of people with disabilities.

I wish I could say I am proudly disabled. To me there is nothing to be proud or ashamed of by virtue of being disabled. I have limitations that I did not consciously seek. It just is the way things are. I, Georgina Mumba, am a host of paraplegia. I host the impairment and the consequences that come with it. How I adapt to this reality is a whole other conversation. How society treats me as a host of my disability is, too, another conversation. What I take pride in every so often is the victories I realise in my quest to make the most of an unfortunate reality. I celebrate my achievements in spaces where my disability significantly negatively influences and in those times I prove wrong those with unhealthy attitudes towards me as a host of a disability.

So, is disability such a bad word that we must fear being associated with it? Should disability be used as a shaming word? What is the policy on successfully living with a disability? How can we allow people to acknowledge themselves and their disabilities without making them feel anxious about how that speaks to their attitudes? How do we not make people with disabilities feel our acknowledgement and celebration of their being and efforts are strictly dependent on their radical divorce from disability? This is not to mean there is nothing to be said about healthy and unhealthy attitudes towards management of a disability. The universe clearly hands some crappy cards but that does not mean we must throw our hands in the air and throw away even the little we can do with our abilities. That part is in one’s best interest as it is in the general community’s.

As a woman with a disability my challenge in life is, I often wonder how well am I managing my disability and how well am I doing just as a human being? Every so often there is a video, a link or just a reference about an inspirational disabled person and I wonder if I am adapting as successfully as those of our celebrated colleagues? I hear of people who used their disability as impetus to shatter in numerous glass ceilings and I wonder what we think of those whose limitations are exactly the very barriers determining the ceilings of their dreams?
Is disability really an attitude? Or that in itself is a disabling attitude?

Georgina Mumba is a Statistician by profession, a blogger and a Disability Inclusion Advocate and Consultant based in Lusaka Zambia. You can access a Ted Talk by Gina Mumba https://embraceeveryone.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/what-is-your-individual-disability-policy/

muumbagc@gmail.com (October 2018)

World Mental Health Day: We are in it Together

Today we mark the  World Mental Health Day with the theme ‘ Young people and mental health in a changing world’.

The expanding use of online technologies undoubtedly brings many benefits but also additional pressure. In addition, a significant number of people live in areas affected by humanitarian emergencies such as conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics in addition to widening inequality and poverty. WHO notes that half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated. Among adolescents, suicide is the second leading cause of death followed closely by depression.

 

  1. Today we profile a Ted Talk by Ghanaian born entrepreneur and lawyer Sangu Delle entitled ‘There is no shame in taking care of your mental health’.  He seeks to demystify and highlight the stigma against mental health issues in most of Africa and especially among men that will make them shy away from seeking intervention. He notes the ‘need to realise that our mental struggles do not detract from our virility, nor does our trauma taint our strength. We need to see mental health as important as physical health. We need to stop suffering in silence. We must stop stigmatising disease and traumatising the afflicted’.

 

 

2.  We also share an article by Australian lawyer and Diversity and Inclusion consultant Mariam Veiszadeh available here (‘please do not tell us to pray away our mental health issues‘) in which she notes  how widely misguided and uninformed society generally is when it comes to mental health and well being. She believes this deep lack of awareness severely hinders treatment and early diagnosis, which results in victims suffering in silence. ‘As I’ve said to so many over the years, we turn to a medical professional to help us when we have a physical condition. We don’t simply just pray for a cure, so by the same logic, why are we so hesitant to seek help from a professional when we are presented with a mental condition? While spiritual healing can certainly support recovery, it cannot and must not be seen as an alternative to seeking professional help.’

3.  I am also honoured to share a previously shared article by the Zambian based disability inclusion advocate Georgina Mumba  that is available here with the title ‘Disability and Mental Health: A burden too heavy to bear‘ in which she draws the link between mental health and disability. ‘ mental health is a real challenge for persons with disabilities as they grapple with the challenges of their impairments, some of which include health complications, and issues of disability. Stigma, exclusion, isolation, abuse etc are challenges that are sometimes more compounded in our homes and communities than in institutions where persons with disabilities do not only have each other for support but also sometimes have access to professional help. The bottom line is we are all part of the problem until we start being part of the solution’.

 

 

International Week of The Deaf

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International Week of the Deaf (IWDeaf)

is an initiative of the WFD and was first launched in 1958 in Rome, Italy. It is celebrated annually by the global Deaf Community on the last full week of September to commemorate the same month the first World Congress of the WFD was held. IWDeaf is celebrated through various activities by respective Deaf Communities worldwide. These activities call for participation and involvement of various stakeholders including families, peers, governmental bodies, professional sign language interpreters, and DPOs.

International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL)

has been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and is celebrated annually on 23 September beginning in 2018. The objective of the IDSL is to raise awareness on sign languages and strengthen the status about sign languages. This event also will take place as part of the International Week of the Deaf (IWDeaf), which is celebrated on the last full week of September.

The World Federation of the Deaf is a global organisation working to ensure equal rights for 70 million deaf people around the globe.  To read about their work, please click here.

One of the many organisations working to support the rights of Deaf Children and Young Adults is Deaf Child Worldwide and you can also read about their work here.

An interesting account of the history of special education in the Philippines, starting with the establishment of a school for the Deaf and Blind can also be read here.

We would like to celebrate the life and achievement of Prof. Michael Ndurumo, a Professor of Psychology in Kenya, who is deaf.  Please read his inspiring story here.

Did you know that Ludwig van Beethoven, the famous German composer, was deaf? His last words were reported to be, “I shall hear in heaven”.  A long list of other notable Deaf people can be found here.

Finally, we would like to quote again from the World Federation of the Deaf:

70 million deaf people.

300+ sign languages.

Unlimited potential.

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