NGO puts spotlight on disabled youth

Parents of children with disabilities sang a song during the launch of an empowerment programme to help them

Dreams of better treatment for people living with disabilities, and their families, are one step closer to being realised thanks to an intervention by Afrika Tikkun.

The organisation, in partnership with Uhambo Foundation, launched an empowerment programme, particularly for youth with disabilities, on Wednesday November 9. The programme is aimed at changing people’s attitudes towards disabled people and getting the community to embrace them. There will be a special focus on education and research, self-advocacy groups and advice and referral services.

The programme will include groups such as Positive Gangster, Anti-violence Buddies, Young Urban Women and Young Urban Men and self-help groups for children with disabilities and their families. So far the programme has already been working with Young Urban Women and Young Urban Men. Afrika Tikkun conducted research around Mfuleni last year to find out how disabled people felt and how they were treated.

Case administrators Xabiso Maqolo and Lizeka Gqobana described the use of public transport by disabled children and their parents as a nightmare as service providers did not understand their needs. They also pointed out that schools for disabled children were often far away, adding to the burden for children and their parents.

The empowerment programme has been launched to draw attention to some of these challenges and help not only children but every resident of Mfuleni to advocate for rights of people living with disabilities.

Speaking at the launch, programme manager Jean Elphick urged the community to take part in the programme. “People must join the groups to discuss and decide on real issues. It is a great platform for everyone. We are delighted that the parents have joined us. We will deal with children from an early age. We also want children to access education about human rights and develop self-advocacy skills and promote safety among their peers,” she said.

Programme co-ordinator Marc Lubner appealed for unity. He called on people to make a difference where they live. “If we wait for somebody to do things for us and that person does not come, we have ourselves to blame. My brother’s child had a disability, but they never discarded her.

“She made a huge difference to others to realise their worth because they never pushed her away. It is the spirit of Ubuntu that binds us. It is that spirit of Ubuntu that makes this country a better country. That is according to me,” he said.

Expressing her gratitude to Afrika Tikkun, Nthabiseng Mokoena, whose child has a disability, said every child is a future leader including those who are disabled. “We all know that it takes the village to raise a child, but it also takes the village to destroy the child. We are begging for your support and love for our children. We really appeal to people to support and love them so they can realise their worth. I am grateful to Afrika Tikkun for giving me an opportunity to strike back because I thought I was worthless after leaving school.

“I have a disabled child, and I am part of its programme, Young Urban Women and Young Urban Men,” she said.

Afrika Tikkun general manager Lizo Madinga said his organisation was doing a lot to change things for the youth. He reiterated that self-empowerment was important in providing youth with opportunities to speak up for themselves. He called on the community to make sure that disabled youth were fully included in society.