Youths who attended a belated commemorative event organised by the Zimbabwe Parents of Handicapped Children Association (ZPHCA) at the Adelaide Acres to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Harare today have urged stakeholders to include them in all spheres of development initiatives in line with the spirit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Chipo Zhento, a teenage girl with a disability said like any other girl of her age, she aspires to have her own family in future hence the need to have access to all essential provisions needed by adolescents.
“I have to look good like my able-bodied peers because I have plans to have a decent boyfriend with whom I will start a family at the appropriate time. To be attractive, I also need make-up and good dresses. One of the challenges that we as PWDs face is access to sanitary wear. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if I was on my periods and came here with sanitary pads. It wouldn’t look good!” Zhento said.
Pastorose Bhande, a teenage hard of hearing, emphasised on the need for financial inclusion among girls with disabilities who have some vocational skills.
“I am a tailor and make a variety of clothes for both men and women. The business is not thriving because we are having challenges, just like other able-bodied persons, in accessing cash from banks. I also have rights just like anyone else, to health, housing and shelter,” Bhande said through an interpreter.
Shingirirai Muchena, another youth with a disability, urged stakeholders to give PWDs access to quality and comprehensive education.
“As PWDs we need access to education. When one talks of successful people like the late President Robert Mugabe and Strive Masiyiwa of Econet, they realise that they reached such high social standing in society because they had access to education. Many of us lack opportunities and support to attain higher levels of education. It’s regrettable that most families don’t invest in the education of their children with disabilities yet we should be given equal opportunities with the able-bodied,” Muchena said.
Senator Rejoice Timire who represents people with disabilities in Parliament and was Guest of Honour at the Persons With Disabilities Youth Conference said youths with disabilities, in their diversity, should be included in development programmes.
“In the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals which emphasise on leaving no one behind, these youths should participate in all spheres of development without any barriers or hindrance. Parents should show them love at home and as leaders we should encourage them to emulate some of us in Parliament. We should show youths with disabilities that they can be leaders too and create conducive environments for them to succeed,” Senator Timire said.
Theresa Makwara, the National Coordinator of ZPHCA said her organisation works to raise awareness on the plight of youths with disabilities to policymakers. She bemoaned the slow pace at which grievances of youths with disabilities were being addressed.
“First and foremost, I would like to convey, on behalf of ZPHCA, our sincere gratitude to our funders who have made this occasion successful. Our grievances go beyond food especially this festive season. PWDs need quality education, jobs and decent housing.Most of them have challenges in accessing cash and using ICT gadgets. We hope such issues will reflect in the disability policy and the Disability Act,” Makwara said.