The social, economic and political spheres of life are paramount in giving all human beings a satisfactory life. Join me in looking at the complexities of these seemingly simple facets in relation to our beloved mothers and sisters, women with disability.
It is an open secret that this group of people is probably the hardest hit by a low status in society; most of them are voiceless in households, families, communities and broader society. They are more often than not on the receiving end of the many prejudices affecting our society. Some women with disability have to rely on other people for their personal feminine hygiene; this actually has the potential of lowering their self-esteem.
What seems disturbing, even within our so-called enlightened society, is that some of our sisters with disability might be taken for granted by would be lovers; this might in turn result in them feeling inadequate as lovers or wives. A disheartening trend is that some men take advantage of their disability, and use them to explore how sex is with someone with a disability. But they are human and no less female than their able-bodied counterparts. One tends to wonder what the logic there is.
A quick survey revealed that in certain instances, in-laws to our beloved sisters might also view them as a burden to their relative who would have married them and unto the entire family. There are some who think women with disability cannot engage in sexual intercourse. While there are exceptions, it does not follow that all physical, visual or hearing impairments lead to an incapacity to play the balls deep game.
Some people might hate having them as a daughter-in-law who cannot perform the ‘normal’ cultural routines such as cooking, cleaning and child-rearing. Most people who hold such a mindset are those that have not closely interacted with these ladies; a majority has found its peculiar ways of handling the seemingly insurmountable hurdles.
Most of our sisters with disability have no or a poor educational background. It is an open secret that without a sound education, this group of women cannot access jobs that would otherwise allow them to sustain themselves. The majority has remained at the bottom of the economic strata. In our present economic environment as the Zimbabwean nation, some cannot afford feminine hygiene due to them being unemployed or being able to earn an income in whatever form. This is grave, especially to those that rely on the assistance of other people to maintain their personal hygiene.
Traditionally, women are sidelined from political circles. This is worse for women with disability; indeed very few contemporary political structures embrace our dear mothers and sisters. One would ask; is there a political will to devise mechanisms such as setting aside funds to sustain unemployed people with disability, especially women.
I salute these stalwarts that brave the coldness and insensitivities of our bigoted society for three hundred and sixty-five days a year; having a disability myself, I very much doubt I could carry the load that my female counterparts bear on a daily basis. Genuinely speaking, every single woman with a disability is worth celebrating. They are a unique species.
By Mokhumi Valela
(Has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Sociology & Politics from the University of South Africa and has the physical disability of cerebral palsy)