Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Old and Infirm

Hi guys, please check out a recent article from the Tanzania Daily News titled "Old Age and Disability Is Not a Curse."


"When I was in primary school, I used to tell our teacher that I could not see.  I would ask: 'Can you please read for me?  But the teacher would say, 'Why do you come to school then if you cannot see?'" narrated Robert Bundala, a peer researcher.

While the government has invested much in improving the education sector in the country, a report called "Hear My Voice: Old Age and Disability Is Not a Curse" of September 2016 notes a number of challenges including poor infrastructure and unfriendly learning environments for persons with disabilities.

The recently launched report by Sightsavers in partnership with ADD International, HelpAge International, and Ifakara Health Institute reveals many of society's misconceptions and beliefs around people with disabilities and the aged.

This report found out that people with disabilities and older people in Tanzania face disappointing issues such as lack of access to education and health services, sexual violence and marriage break-ups.

There is also poor treatment from family members as well as violence and discrimination towards people with albinism due to traditional beliefs and practices.

The Country Director of Sightsavers, Mr. Gosbert Katunzi, is of the view that disability and old age are issues concerning all Tanzanians and, as the report makes clear, the groups have an active duty to playing a role in all spheres of society.

Discrimination against children with disabilities and limited teacher training have also been reported as obstacles in accessing education.  The research notes that more teachers should be trained to provide quality inclusive education for children with disabilities.

Curricula in primary schools should be flexible and adapt to the needs of diverse learners so children with disabilities can benefit from quality education.  On the other hand, parents of children with disabilities should be sensitized to the importance of taking their children to school to receive education.

Limited accessibility of health services has also been cited in the report, as well as shortage of medical equipment and supplies at health facilities, and poor communication skills among healthcare providers and high costs incurred when seeking care.

A peer researcher, Elizabeth Bukwela, narrating a story of a 32-year-old participant with a hearing impairment, said: "I usually go alone to the hospital but I have been experiencing a lot of difficulties because I couldn't express myself, since healthcare providers do not understand sign language.

Another participant was quoted as saying: "I remember another sad story in which a pregnant woman who was blind had gone to give birth at a health facility.  She delivered twins but reported that she was given one baby only."

Based on those aspects, the research calls on social welfare officers to conduct frequent visits in villages to inquire and understand the needs of persons with disabilities and older persons.  It is also noted that health facility infrastructures should be made accessible to persons with disabilities and should include trainings of healthcare providers on how to interact with the disabled and older persons.

Strict measures should be put in place so that health facilities can make sure that health staff who abuse or mistreat persons with disabilities and older persons are taken to task.

Lack of employment is also pointed out as among challenges for persons with disability, thus there is a need for a call for support and guidance from local authorities and the government by way of establishing income generating activities as well as entrepreneurship skills.

Communities, on the other hand, should be supportive enough to the groups so that they can actively get involved and share their skills, life experiences, and knowledge.

Parents of children with disabilities were identified as the reason for their children's relationship difficulties and marriage breakdowns, because they were taking over the role of choosing fiancées or partners for their children.

It has been identified that females with disabilities have been frequently humiliated by being forced to live with men who were not of their choice.  Older people felt neglected by their families and communities because they were poor and had no incomes.

The report notes that persons with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities should be made aware that all matters related to marriage, family, parenthood, and relationships should be decided freely on an equal basis with others.  Women with disabilities should not be exploited, threatened, or mistreated.

It was further explained that peer influence contributed to women with disabilities being harassed in their marriages.

Measures should be taken to raise awareness on gender equality and discrimination in communities, including the need to report physical, verbal, and sexual abuse to the police.  Participants have recounted mistreatment by some parents who see their children disabilities as a burden and therefore decide to abandon them.

"I stayed at home because they said that a person with hearing impairment is like a patient, that should not be engaged in any activity," revealed one participant.  More awareness should be created to reduce stigma and discrimination of persons with disabilities and older people.

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