Lobbying Government Departments on Accessible Social Services in Botswana

ImageThe Botswana Federation of Disabled People (BOFOD) has noted that disabled persons with disabilities face a host of discriminatory practices, including human rights abuses, which were often not brought to the fore.

Botswana population of people with disabilities has very little to show for two decades of democracy. Like all countries in the world, we know poverty, physical suffering and danger to be a part of the lives of most of our people. But in the worlds of people with disabilities, the broad failure of service delivery is made far worse by a combination of entrenched prejudice, government disregard and the fact of our society being designed and run in ways which exclude.

It was previously believed that disability was about health problems that limited people’s potential. Clear evidence now shows that it is mainly about societies like Botswana  , Botswana, Malawi  other countries’ that, for no good reason, government fail  to provide basic access to the 10-15% of its population with physical, sensory, cognitive and psychiatric impairments. There is no accessible transportation to get one to somewhere to look for a job, let alone making it possible to keep one. And this is before meeting employer prejudice and inaccessible work environments. Proper sanitation is unavailable to all but means a daily grind of especially severe attacks on dignity for a physically impaired person.

Health care support is difficult to reach, under-resourced and often inappropriate.  Susceptibility to cold and infection presents constant threats to life. As a person with disability, one is many times more likely to be a victim of verbal, physical and sexual abuse. The lack of basic assistive services means that friends and family – if these are present – must be relied on for, literally, the means of life, often distorting and straining relationships.

Like the HIV positive community, women with disabilities and rights of children and youth the disability  community needs powerful leadership, loudly saying that all are entitled to participate, to be full citizens, to be outraged, to have needs, to feel whole and legitimate. In the coming decades this will mean taking issue with government.. BOFOD intend to call representatives from Office of President the disability sector, Departments of Education, and key ministries in an attempt to find cross-cutting solutions to address the challenge of transforming society to ensure that disabled people were welcomed and mainstreamed into all sectors.

BOFOD noted that disabled people faced a host of discriminatory practices, including human rights abuses, which were often not brought to the fore. Attitudes and economic practices posed the greatest hindrance. Botswana had no good policies for us . Some departments had offices on the status of disabled persons, but others had delegated this function to other departments and it was not being coherently or uniformly addressed, particularly at local level, where there were also difficulty in interpreting the policies and issues. The instruments put in place to measure Botswana’s progress in dealing with disability issues are not effective and the rural areas are not reached. Transport, access, reading materials for the blind, deaf facilities and privacy all raise as major concerns for which frameworks and structures are needed. Although we still await the result of statistics Botswana survey 2012 . BOFOD and other and other NGOs lack resources to support and advocate for their cause and are not given enough real support at all levels to significantly address attitudes. Although state departments they still tend to employ at lower levels, often fail to make reasonable accommodation, such as employing personal assistants or assistive devices, and did not retain staff. Office of President – Disability Coordination lack enforcement powers. BOFOD itself in its advocacy efforts will like to see the following issues addressed:  public Education and sensitization, workplace profiling, reasonable accommodation, access, and different recruitment facilities. Disabled peoples’ organizations had to be funded and proper incentives are needed to further disabled employment. Despite that  there are multiple discriminatory practices facing disabled people. However, the worst and most prevalent are perhaps the attitudes and economic practices that hindered disabled people; the big problem lay in implementation of the policies.

Government had not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and other international instruments. However, there are still concerns that the instruments being used to measure the progress that Botswana had made in addressing disability issues are not effective. Disabled people, particularly those in the deep rural areas, are still subjected to immense ills of society. It is important to put a proper framework in place to guarantee privacy, for the deaf and blind, from their personal assistants and sign language interpreters. As much as we believe that nobody could predict the future, and it is even more important to ensure that proper structures are put in place.

Although the highest ranking officials of the state are committed to changing of attitudes of society towards disabled people, they are not enough. BOFOD lack resources to manoeuvre within the spaces they are being given by the state. There is need to change attitudes throughout.

BOFOD isadamant that it could itself help in providing solutions and emphasized “nothing about us, without us”. There are disabled senior official employed in government, but had not been provided with a personal assistant? BOFOD emphasized that whenever someone was employed, reasonable accommodation must be provided to cater for needs, as virtually nothing had been done in this direction to date.

BOFOD isquite satisfied, in principle, with the existence of the disability sector at OP , but still felt that the office  had no “teeth” as it did not have enough authority to hold others accountable for the failure to meet targets.  

Furthermore, BOFOD emphasized the need for funding for disabled people’s organizations, as they often reached out to places where state departments could not.

BOFOD   and its members noted the positive progress in addressing some of its concerns. Sign language had been included state of the nation address there is need to do more, listen to the Voice of the Deaf and use the correct sign language interpreters and provide subtitles are provided for some programmes.  . Braille facilities ought also to be included.

In order to achieve its targets, BOFOD will like to have a meeting with  all departments to address the following issues  Transport issues, Braille accessibility, Accessibility and Forum meeting in all its advocacy and dialogue with government to provide consultancy and advice to policy makers , as well as to make government committed, accountable and consultative.

Published by gkayange

A journalist dedicated to making a difference in the lives of marginalised communities, including persons with disabilities.

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