Mothers who give birth to children with disabilities face many challenges including stigma and rejection.
Alice Banda gave birth to her son, Pride, 12 years ago. Pride was born with disabilities on his legs and arms. Living in the border town of Beitbridge in Zimbabwe, Alice has had to take the brunt of stigmatisation from her community and most sadly her close family for giving birth to a child with disabilities.
“My husband left me after I gave birth to Pride. He said ‘izvi hazvisi zvekwedu’ meaning the disabilities were not from his genes but mine,” explained Alice.She said some community members accused her of not being faithful saying that is why she gave birth to a child with disabilities. Others accused her of offering her son in moneymaking rituals, commonly known as “kuchekeresa”.
She expressed that such statements hurt her and she cannot understand why people will say that, considering that she works for herself and lives a very modest life.
Alice’s story is one of the many sad experiences of women with disabilities or give birth to children with disabilities. They are blamed for the disabilities and stigmatised by many people. As a result, some women hide their children depriving them of basic human rights like access to education. It then needs strong women like Alice.
“I will not hide my son, he is human and he should be seen,” quipped Alice.
UNESCO in partnership with UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women, under the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), is implementing a project to amplify the voices of women like Alice, address negative cultural norms around disabilities and advocate for improved response and prevention of Gender-Based Violence.
The project complements the Government of Zimbabwe’s efforts in advancing the rights of women and girls with disabilities as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Persons with disabilities constitute about seven percent of Zimbabwe’s population. There is recognition of the plethora of challenges they face which include amongst others, access to health care and judicial services as well as to information.
The joint UN initiative is being implemented in 20 districts across Zimbabwe and is estimated to reach at least 500 000 women.