Working with the disabled in Africa is a complex job; they must helped to grow and become autonomous. But it also requires getting involved in society to get rid of the stigma pervading the world of disability. We talked about it with Tommaso Sartori, CELIM project manager in Zambia. Tommaso co-ordinates «Disability», a project that looks at the world of disability and seeks to improve the educational offer (guaranteeing quality education, satisfactory facilities and trained teachers), increase work opportunities and guarantee adequate health care.
“Trying to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities is essential – observes Sartori – but it must be backed up with constant awareness raising work with families and communities to reduce the prejudices and discrimination that still affect the disabled”.
The social stigma against the world of the disabled is still strong in Zambia. Disability is seen as the result of a curse, like some kind of black magic. So families tend to hide their disabled children. And it is also for this reason that the exact number of those who are affected by permanent mental or physical problems in the country is not known.
«The average Zambian – continues Sartori – does not discriminate against the disabled. I have often seen men and women approach the disabled, talk to them, have a peaceful relationship with them. That said, families still feel a sense of shame, perhaps of uneasiness, which means that disability is not talked about and people with disabilities are relegated to their home “.
The state does what it can. In Zambia there is a law (Disability Act 2012) that should help families and the disabled. The lack of funds has meant that this law is completely disregarded and, as a consequence, there is a complete lack of means, infrastructure, and specific training.
To overcome this situation, the project envisages a collaboration with the Ministry of Health to carry out awareness-raising activities through conferences. “We are also organising a series of meetings – concludes Sartori – in various districts, relying on the support of parishes. We aim at conveying a different image of disability. Our intention is to make people understand that those who are affected by a disability are a resource for the whole community and not a shame to hide”.