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NGO fights for recognition of vulnerable groups

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People living with disability, HIV and Aids, marginalised women and children’s concerns remain far from being understood by many people and the government which overlook most of the major issues that affect such people.

The infrastructure constructed across the country is not suitable for people living with disabilities.

Lack of provisions which guarantee the safety and rights of these groups in the Constitution exposes how these groups have been neglected, if not forgotten.

As an ultimate aim to address specific vulnerabilities of people living with disabilities, HIV and Aids, marginalised women and girls through increased flow of Global Fund resources to projects that meet their needs in these countries, the Southern Region Coalition (SRC) was formed.

Currently, there are over 25 organisations which make up the coalition.

These are mostly located in the southern part of Zimbabwe that is prone to drought and lags behind in resource allocation on development issues.

Members of the coalition include disabled persons organisations, faith-based organizations (Fbos), community based organisations, private and voluntary organisations, support groups of people living with HIV and technocrats on HIV and Aids issues.

In March 2007, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa) and the Open Society Institute called for proposals from coalitions of women’s rights groups and HIV and Aids organisations to strengthen the engagement of women and girls with the Global Fund in southern Africa.

Chairperson of the coalition, Caroline Mubaira, said the overall objectives and key activities of the organisation are to provide a platform for people with disabilities people living with Hiv and Aids, marginalised women and girls and former convicts to freely express their views on all matters affecting them.

She said their views are given due weight on an equal basis with others. Mubaira said the organisation is concerned with raising awareness of society regarding people with disabilities, people living with HIV and Aids and former women convicts.

It also assists former convicted girls to combat stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices, including those based on sex and age in all areas of life, especially HIV and Aids and tubercolosis.

“We promote awareness on the capabilities and contributions of persons with disabilities, people living with HIV and Aids, former women and girl convicts so as to improve participation in life. We also ensure their full development, advancement and empowerment for the purposes of guaranteeing their enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms related to sex and sexuality,” said Mubaira.

The organisation works hard to have meaningful involvement of its targeted groups in HIV, Aids and TB programmes.

It also tackles issues of gender that perpetuate negative effects of HIV and Aids on disabled women and girls, people living with HIV and Aidsand other marginalised women and girls in the community.

The targeted groups are also provided with life skills to deal with their situation and that of others in a society. The coalition operates in the southern region of the country — (Matabeleland North and South, Bulawayo, Midlands and Masvingo) provinces with a focus to be national.

In efforts to provide effective service to its constituency, the organisation conducts civic education, lobbying and advocacy, community forums, engagement, training, campaigns and sports. It is presently receiving support from Osisa on HIV and Aids, disability and constitution.

By virtue women carry a heavy burden of HIV and Aids-related care and support, often due to culturally defined, unequal gender roles.

This restricts their ability to adopt behaviour that reduces their risk to infection. The gender emphasis within the organisation, as typical with developing countries, focuses on empowering women, helping women develop self-esteem, promoting education for girls and providing training for economic independence.

A non-discriminatory approach is used by SRC, making sure that there are equal opportunities in socio-economic and cultural life.

The organisation finds it essential to focus on boys up-bringing and countering socio-cultural values that lead them to assume superiority over women, the cultural justifications for male dominance, sexual freedom and to put their needs and desires ahead of those of women.

It was also resolved that SRC must intensify its programmes and campaign to inform the public and dispel all myths and misconceptions about disability.

“SRC will continue to lobby for the fair allocation of resources for people living with disability from government, donors and funding agencies and ensure that resources reach and strengthen their programmes at grassroots level.

SRC will continue to lobby that there be a levy for disability as it surpasses the HIV prevalence of 13,7% compared to its 15%,” said Mubaira.

The organisation is currently lobbying all local authorities and the Ministry of Housing, Rural and Urban Development to make all public buildings accessible to people with all forms of disabilities.

SRC members are prepared to work with service providers in their areas to build ramps on public buildings for easy access for people with disability.

“Some people living with disability cannot enter into many buildings because of how such facilities were constructed.

Authorities concerned seemed to be having no vision that there are disabled people who cannot enter such buildings unless assisted by the able-boded,” said Mubaira.

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