“Prudence is an example of a young person with disabilities who overcame challenges, broke stereotypes, and is changing her community and country. But this is not the case for many children with disabilities. Many still struggle to be heard, and many countries, especially developing countries, have been slow to offer opportunities to young people with disabilities.” Read Prudence’s inspiring story here.
This article was originally published at: http://youthink.worldbank.org/issues/wp-content/blogs.dir/7/-disability-not-inability-Prudence
Academy Award-winning Zimbabwean singer Prudence Mabhena was born with arthrogryposis, a rare condition that caused her joints to be deformed and left her unable to walk.
Her parents abandoned her at an early age, fearing that her “difference” was the result of witchcraft and would curse the family.
Prudence was left with her grandmother, a farmer who strapped Prudence to her back as she worked in the fields. She sang to Prudence, and Prudence learned to sing.
When Prudence turned 7-years-old, she got a scholarship to attend King George VI & Centre for Children with Physical Disabilities (KG6), in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, a facility supported by donors around the world. The school changed her life. She became the lead vocalist of “Liyana,” an award-winning Afro-fusion band composed of young people with disabilities. Her life — now captured in an award winning film — is an inspiration to many.
Prudence is an example of a young person with disabilities who overcame challenges, broke stereotypes, and is changing her community and country. But this is not the case for many children with disabilities. Many still struggle to be heard, and many countries, especially developing countries, have been slow to offer opportunities to young people with disabilities.
About 785 million people (PDF) around the world today live with a disability. The number is probably higher, because many children continue to be excluded from society - and even demographic data.
Experts say helping young people with disabilities is a key development goal, because poverty can cause disabilities and disabilities can cause poverty, creating a vicious cycle. Inclusive efforts and programs need to be developed to allow disabled people to fully participate in their community, so they can be part of social and economic life.
And awareness-building needs to start at a young age. Aleksandra Lemesova, 18, who is deaf, said young people in her native Russia often make fun of disabled people.
“Most [people] who have great disabilities are ignored, they don’t have enough money to treat themselves and they just are considered to be second class citizens, because they are not able to help themselves,” said Aleksandra.
In the past few years, there has been growing international recognition of the need to address disability to reduce poverty. Even amid competing global priorities, more than 100 countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PDF) to recognize the dignity and worth of people with disabilities and protect their rights under the law.
Belgium and Malta have programs that promote non-discrimination and equal access to education. Now more children with disabilities are attending mainstream schools.
Algeria, Malawi, Mexico, Portugal and Ukraine have developed programs and educational support materials for children with disabilities, including textbooks in Braille and audio-visual or other specialized equipment that are either subsidized or provided free of charge.
Croatia promotes professional development of educational workers who work with children and persons with developmental disabilities, and offers facilities of mobile expert teams who provide support to teachers and children with disabilities.
Prudence says young people in Zimbabwe are working on projects that help them earn a living rather than waiting for donations and support from the government. They are also using their talents to attract tourists to the country, creating a source of economic growth. She said her school is planning to campaign for quality and inclusive education to children with disabilities in 2012.
Prudence herself is raising awareness of the issue through her music with the goal of “making the world accept disability and include people with disability in their plans, e.g. building with a great conscious that the places need to be accessible, quality education, freedom and dignity.”
Young people with disabilities can take part in the fight against poverty by participating in awareness-raising events, improving the understanding of disabilities in their communities, promoting their rights, and participating in processes that influence policy.
“We have tried to educate/inform the world that disability does not mean inability. After the documentary and the speeches that I have addressed, hard situations have come to a better change.”
Young people’s involvement and participation will help eliminate misconceptions, stereotypes, lack of access, and other main challenges they face. It will provide opportunities for youth with disabilities to fully participate in all aspects of development, and ensure that this population does not remain isolated and invisible.
Photo: by Errol Webber
Featured Image Credit: Mountain Film