Women with disabilities who become victims of gender-based violence (GBV) do not speak out of fear of losing their support system, a disability activist has revealed.
December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities being celebrated under the theme, Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.
Soneni Gwizi, a disability activist, said most women with a disability do not openly talk about gender-based violence.
“They never speak due to fear of being discriminated. Normally the perpetrators are bread winners or someone close and they depend on them,” she said.
“Another factor is most of these women depend on being assisted all the time”.
She said women and girls with disabilities silently suffer from direct and indirect violence.
“Disability on its own receives a lot of stigma and being a woman enhances vulnerability to various abuses such as psychological, economic and physical violence,” she said.
Gwizi pointed out that there is a need for a safe environment for the victims to openly talk about the abuses.
“If the environment is safe and accessible it opens room for confidentiality. An abused woman can go and report without depending on anyone,” she said.
She said for women with disabilities, the environment must be accessible for them by putting ramps, sign language interpreters for the hearing impaired.
“The challenge for victims of GBV is getting access to services and communication barriers. Infrastructure hinders GBV victims to get to places where they can get assistance,” highlighted Gwizi.
She added that this day gives her mixed emotions as a woman living with a disability.
“This day brings a lot of personal emotions to me as an African Disabled Woman. At times I am caught in between joy and sorrow. There is a lot of ‘if’ in it but I chose to celebrate my inner being who is stronger than the physical,” said Gwizi.
She highlighted that there are too many expectations on this day, most of which are not fulfilled
“As disabled people, we put too much expectations on this day because of the promises it holds and sadly we get disappointed when the needs are not met.
“How can one celebrate without owning a wheelchair, hearing aids, reading glasses, proper shelter, education and a job,” she concluded.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed, in resolution 47/3 of 14 October 1992 that December 3 be observed every year as the International Day of Disabled Persons.