By Byron Mutingwende
The Zimbabwe Parents of Handicapped Children Association (ZPHCA) is partnering the City of Harare in an endeavour to make the later a gender and disability friendly, safe, resilient, inclusive and competitive world-class city.
Theresa Makwara, the ZPHCA Grassroots Women Project Coordinator, in her welcome remarks during the City of Harare Urban Thinkers Campus 2018 held at Ropka Trust, said the meeting was an opportunity for stakeholders to contribute towards planning and designing the desired future City of Harare that women want.
“As urban women, we know where we are right now and where we want to be in terms of urban development. ZPHCA in partnership with Huairou Commission and UN Habitat, is hosting the second City of Harare Urban Thinker Campus in tandem with fellow World Cities under the banner of the UN Habitat in the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda. The City of Harare Campus is running under the Theme: City of Harare Women Accelerating the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda,” Makwara said.
The UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.
Globally Cities are facing unprecedented demographic, environmental, economic, social and spatial challenges. There has been a phenomenal shift towards urbanisation, with 6 out of every 10 people in the world expected to reside in urban areas by 2030. Over 90 per cent of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanisation will be dramatic hence the call for action.
“As women and residents of the City of Harare, we have already begun to feel the effects of rapid urbanisation particularly lack of proper housing and growth of slums (Informal Settlements), street vending, garbage accumulation, inadequate and out-dated infrastructure such as roads, public transport, water, sanitation, electricity, rising poverty levels, unemployment, safety and crime problems, pollution and health issues, as well as natural disasters and outbreak of diseases particularly the current twin Cholera and Typhoid Epidemics,” Makwara added.
Urban planning, policies, budgets and approaches towards urbanisation needs to change in order for the growth of the City of Harare to be turned into opportunities that will take everyone aboard particularly grassroots women and persons with disability.
Over the years, disability has increasingly become a global issue mainly due to the considerate increase in the number of Persons With Disabilities worldwide. According to World Health Organisation, about 15% of the global population is living with some form of disability. This is around 1 billion people worldwide with most of them living in developing countries.
In Zimbabwe, some researchers say it is at least at 7% (which is around 900 000 people living with disabilities). These disability types range from moderate to severe disability. Conflicts, poverty, malnutrition, poor health care systems, environmental hazards, natural and man made disasters, traffic, industrial and home accidents, ageing and disease have all contributed to the increasing number of persons living with disabilities.
Harare’s Councillor for Ward 7, Happymore Gotora, delivering a speech on behalf of the Mayor of Harare, Councillor Herbert Gomba, said the Local Authority as the City Father is cognisant of the fact that people with disabilities go through all sorts of discrimination and all kinds of social barriers.
“PWDs enjoy fewer rights, are unemployed and have no proper place in society, due to sometime lack of proper budgetary planning in the development of cities. Our aim is to make Harare a World Class City by 2030 and thus it must involve user-friendly, sustainable, inclusive development in terms of infrastructural development that will cater for the needs of everyone,” Gotora said.
He called for upgrading and construction of buildings that are usable to disabled people in order to empower everyone in accessing essential services without much hassle.
“It is not the disability that is the biggest handicap to people with disabilities, but rather it is the perception of society, attitudes and actions which has seen construction of social barriers that exist and which prevent the full participation of persons with disabilities in the mainstream society. Disability is thus not an individual problem but the outcome of wrong social organisation and as such society should restructure policies, practices, attitudes, legal provisions and political organisation in order to achieve inclusiveness in all spheres of development.”
Disability issues are not the responsibility of the one Ministry alone. They are a cross cutting matter and therefore the responsibility of all government ministries for example, the Ministry of Health being the initial contact dealing with injury and disease extending to Physiotherapy, Occupational and Speech therapy and also Prosthetic/Orthotic services for the provision of artificial limbs and calipers.
The social welfare department is responsible for housing the disability board whose function is to coordinate rehabilitation activities and anything to do with social services.
“As the Local Authority, it is our responsibility to see to it that needs including Housing and Land Allocation are administered in a sensitive manner. Mothers of Disabled Children and their families must be the first priority to ensure housing is accessible. It is quite worrisome that most parents of disabled children do not have enough financial resources to acquire land and end up facing housing challenges.
“The City will consider this an immediate area of addressing as we move towards a Better Urban Future. It is our collective hope and responsibility that we make our cities safe for everyone and that we reduce destitute persons in our sustainable development agenda. We have a mandate through our Social Services Department to work together with key stakeholders in ensuring that everyone is socially secure in our communities. It is therefore essential that we work closely with Civil Society organisations as evident from today’s event so as to help each other create an effective strategy of addressing the problem of housing and access to shelter of the less advantaged members of the society,” Councillor Gotora added.
Special education needs are also among some of the areas that the Local Authority seeks to address as one of the major investors in education in the city. Goal number 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals stresses that there is need for the creation of an inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of life long opportunities for all, focusing on elimination of gender disparities and inclusion of children with disabilities in access to basic education and vocational training for vulnerable groups including people with disabilities.
The goal advocates for building and upgrading of education facilities that are child, disability and gender friendly. It is therefore a prerogative for the City Fathers to see to it that these standards are achieved in schools. With the necessary resources needed available, the inclusivity needed in the Education sector will be achieved.
A key area for achieving A Better Urban Future is the reduction of pollution and responsiveness to climate change through sustainable development strategies. Sustainable Urban farming that utilises natural inputs, proper waste collection, and adoption of healthy financial and economic activities that do not harm our environment must be at the core of our transformation. We strive to enhance livelihoods and entrepreneurship in sustainable and organised ways that will keep our cities clean. Climate change will deter our natural cycle of seasons and disrupt our food security and economic planning. The effects of climate change are severe in developing countries and thus as one of the developing countries, we should strive to minimise the rapid increase of climate change as it will hinder our other development trajectories. Let me applaud organisations that are training our urban citizens to exercise sustainable resilience production strategies in order to foster a sustainability approach.
Mobility is one of the biggest problems faced by persons with disabilities where children may be homebound if they are too old to be carried on their mothers back due to lack of mobility aids such as wheelchairs. There is no such provision for wheelchairs on buses or commuter omnibuses. With the negative attitudes of society, parents find it hard to travel with their children on public transport. It is with great concern that the City Fathers must and with resources permitting, institute mechanisms for making mobility of disabled persons much easier than now. Our road markings and signs must be improved to suit the needs of every individual. There must be proper communication mediums for all road users in order to improve security in travelling for everyone.
Over the years, the parents and children with disabilities have faced problems such as negative attitudes towards their children, marital, psychosocial, practical problems on handling children, inaccessibility to buildings, schools, communities, lack of resources be it financial, material or human. The Local Authority promised to continue to help in its capacity, all the needy as it has always done through the Mayors Christmas Cheer Fund.
In most cases, mothers of disabled children find themselves deserted by their husbands or fathers of their children and end up taking the role of the main breadwinner of the family. Disabled children are often subjects of shame, considered a misfortune or even end up abandoned. Money for school fees and other essential needs is often spent on the able bodied because the disabled children’s future potential may appear limited thereby preferring to use resources on able bodies children. It is important that society is made aware of the fact that children living with disabilities are not objects of charity but rather subjects with equal rights as any other person.
The Government of Zimbabwe is a signatory to various international and regional conventions such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, there is need for changing perceptions on disabled persons as objects of social charity, medical treatment and social protection.
“We acknowledge these steps and recommend that the government continues to support children with disabilities in policy, advocacy, development and human rights spheres. The Local Authority should continue to work together with all stakeholders in the drive towards creating A Better Urban Future,” Councillor Gotora said.
The Mayor of harare has agreed to support the initiative by the ZPHCA Grassroots Women Project.