Disabled people in Swaziland have asked traditional authorities in the kingdom to remember that they are human beings too.
This was said at a meeting of the Association for People Living with Disabilities in the Ngcamphalala Chiefdom of Swaziland.
The meeting which attracted 92 people with disabilities explored the challenges they faced in the area.
In particular they were concerned that a local development by Swaziland Water Agricultural Development Enterprise (SWADE) which empowered people through agricultural schemes such as growing sugar cane had excluded them.
Sifiso Nhleko, chair of the local Association for People Living with Disabilities, group told local media, ‘The chiefdom’s inner council has let us down as they have done nothing to include us in the development yet they know that we exist. They have not approved our involvement in the development.’
He added, ‘We are also human beings and deserve to be included in development. People without disabilities treat us as if we are animals and government and development agencies do not take us into consideration when implementing development.’
The experiences of the disabled people in Ngcamphalala are common in Swaziland, where they are marginalised by traditions and superstitions.
A report published by SINTEF Technology and Society, Global Health and Welfare in 2011 that studied living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland, found, ‘There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirit
‘Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.’
The report was the result of an extensive study in the kingdom in 2009 and 2010.
It also found that people with disabilities had been abandoned by the Swazi Government. The report stated, ‘The absence of any comprehensive laws and policies to address people with disabilities’ access to equal opportunities reflect a lack of political will and a failure to recognize disability as a human right issue contributes to the devaluing and dehumanising of people with disabilities.
‘People with disabilities have the same rights as able-bodied people and they are entitled to enjoy all citizenry rights.’
It was upbeat about the contributions people with disabilities could make to Swaziland.
‘People with disabilities tend to be more open minded, flexible and less constrained by the negative aspects of “tradition”.
‘They have eagerness and ability to learn; they are less afraid of technological and social change ad adjustment; they have an instinct for social responsibility, and if appropriately applied to, they have energy ready to be applied to the development objectives of Swaziland.’