Braving stigma females with disabilities utilizing their potentials

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DHAKA, May 04, 2020 (BSS)- It is not far past when females with disabilities in Bangladesh found it hard to secure either formal employment or arrange self-employment despite being skilled and ready to work.

Realities used to push the females with disabilities to believe that they were not able to function as normal human beings and not supposed to get equal treatment as well.

But as the days passed, scenario has been changed with females with disabilities are gradually becoming self-employment and also coming out of the social stigma.

Being affected by leprosy, Halima Begum (not real name), a housewife of Chak Farid area of Bogra district, is one of the examples of how she turned her misfortune into a blessed situation. Halima became disabled due to her delay in taking treatment.

Braving the social stigma, at one stage, she got training on income generating activities as well as financial assistance from an NGO.

With the money, she bought a sewing machine by which she earned over Tk. 150 daily, adding to her family’s income. The income has changed her life so much that she has been able to send her only son to school. Her income also increased her social acceptance.

The story proved that a woman even with disability can go ahead if she gets necessary supports.

Though she made progress defying her disability, many

Female with Disabilities (FWDs) are in deplorable condition due to stigma over disabilities in the country. According to Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) Survey 2016, the percentage of population suffering from any type of disability is 6.94 at the national level. Such percentage for male is 6.27 per cent and for female is 7.59 per cent. The females are physically and intellectually challenged.

In Bangladesh, the belief still remains that FWDs should stay sheltered in their homes and many young women therefore have limited access to and awareness of educational and community resources.

FWDs face more discrimination than their male counterparts. Their woes start from their own families. Their parents do not treat them fairly and not arrange education for them, thinking that it would be meaningless to provide education for a disabled girl. Discrimination is often compounded on disabled women on the grounds of gender.

As FWDs have limited decision-making power, they grow up with a sense of inferiority complex and their confidence does not develop due to such negative mentality towards them.

Ashrafun Nahar Misti, executive director of Women with Disabilities Development Foundation (WDDF), said the FWDs are often stigmatized and neglected from early childhood, many girls with disabilities are grown up lacking sense of dignity.

Hence, most of them are isolated from the mainstream society, stigmatized, mistreated and marginalized. They also face severe problems in their marriage. People still believe that a disabled child may be born if they marry a disabled girl, she said.

Life of FWDs is full of challenges. Hence, they are deprived of basic needs such as education, health service, vocational training, social and community services.

Dr. Sanzida Akhter, Associate Professor, Department of Women and Gender Studies, University of Dhaka, said the FWDs face more obstacles than other backward people in the society. Because, they face discrimination from their own families.

It is needed to build positive attitude for eradicating the hindrances, faced by the FWDs, through raising massive awareness, said Sanzida.

Both Ashrafun and Dr. Sanzida said: “The society should adopt a more disabled-friendly approach so that the FWDs can have a dignified life”.

Disability rights (empowerment, participation and legal protection) should be ensured, they added.

The FWDs have potentials. There are instances that FWDs contributed to development in the developed countries. Also they can contribute to our development if they get proper supports, said the rights activists.

The government initiated a number of steps for ensuring the rights of people with disabilities.

In 2001, the Disability Welfare Act was passed in the country. Later in 2007, Bangladesh ratified the UN convention on the rights of persons with disability (UNCPRD). In 2013, Protection of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Act was passed and enforced. The rights activists hoped that a society where the FWDs enjoy equal rights with dignity will be built up with the combined efforts of the government and the private sector.

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