19 July 2018
Category : Opinion
Civil society plays a key role in the inclusion of people with disabilities, especially women, in Sudan. The main challenge is that they become aware of their rights, also at institutional levelAkhyar Omar is the President of the Organization of Women with Disabilities in Sudan
6% of all Sudanese citizens are disabled. Although there are specific policies and laws aimed at this group, they continue to be discriminated in their communities in relation to accessing services or their rights.
The main challenge they face is the limited awareness of these specific rights. Therefore, at present, civil society associations are actively working to make people with disabilities in Sudan aware of their rights and how to obtain them, while promoting policies and laws to boost them.
For example, the right to a better education or access to the labour market are two of the main challenges that they face. Universities and schools in Sudan are not well equipped for people with disabilities. Jobs are available, but there are accessibility issues in the work environment.
In Sudan, in addition to associations for each type of disability, the Organization of Women with Disabilities includes all women, regardless of the type of disability they have. This organization works as a network that promotes the exchange of experiences among women with disabilities, which allows them to understand the needs of their colleagues and work together to help and support each other. The organization’s main objective is the social inclusion of women with disabilities in their communities.
One of the success stories of this project was the case of a girl with visual impairment who stopped going to school and stayed at home for 14 years. The organization has now helped her to finish her school education. They sent her to a specialized institution for blind people, they paid her fees and she has now passed the exam to go to university.
Another woman asked for our help to go to university because the Faculty of Education refused entry because she had a hearing disability: how was she going to work as a school teacher if she could not hear the students? Faced with this situation, the organization went to the University to solve the problem and allow the woman to continue studying, which we hope will allow her to develop her professional career as a teacher in the future.
The fact is that access to employment for women with disabilities is still limited in Sudan. Hence, here at the organization we place a lot of importance on the work we are doing together with Bridging the Gap, a project funded by the European Union, coordinated by the FIIAPP and implemented in Sudan through the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS, for its initials in Spanish). In particular, we work in the state of Gedaref to strengthen the capacities of women with disabilities from rural areas and thereby increase their chances of finding a job or creating business opportunities and cooperatives.
These training activities promote the awareness of teachers, families and people with disabilities about the right to education and the inclusion of women with disabilities in the labour market, which benefits society as a whole. They also work to create a better environment, better accessibility and equipment, and to correctly deal with people with different types of disabilities.
In general, the Sudanese community considers disability as a stigma, although views differ. While some people are accepting of disability, others hide their children from friends and family. They are afraid of having children with disabilities, especially girls, because they believe that they will not be able to protect themselves when they are walking down the street from sexual abuse, for example. Therefore, they keep them inside the house, which becomes a prison for them. Access to education and, subsequently, to the world of work, therefore becomes a liberating experience for them.
Bridging the Gap is a good project because it works with both Government authorities and with people with disabilities themselves. This helps Sudanese society to reduce the gap between people with and without disabilities and for this to be reflected in policies and laws.
In this sense, the role of civil society is key since the country’s institutions usually request their support when they have to address disability issues because officials are not prepared to deal with people with disabilities. Nevertheless, the National Council for Persons with Disabilities is working on a Strategic Plan for People with Disabilities in Sudan that, once approved by the Government, should be adopted by all Ministries.
In the past, women have been poorly represented in organizations related to disability in Sudan. But now it is considered that women have the ability and are prepared within communities to talk about their rights.
Akhyar Omar, President of the Organization of Women with Disabilities in Sudan
About the Project
Bridging the Gap has the backing of Sudanese national institutions and is in line with the country’s development strategy, which includes support for the social inclusion of people with disabilities. The project seeks to help strengthen the participation of national civil society organizations and organizations for people with disabilities in policy formulation processes. The Organization of Women with Disabilities continues to work so that these inclusive policies pay special attention to women with disabilities.
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