A Spotlight on Girls and Women with Disabilities: People Must Look at Us as We Are!

After the interventions by DWI in our community, the way I view disability has changed. At one point I was surprised 16 A Spotlight on Women and Girls with Disabilities to see a woman with a disability pregnant but now I have been equipped with the knowledge that persons with disabilities are also sexual and also need SRH services.
Councillor in Shamva

UNESCO has partnered with Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), knowingly the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH), Deaf Women Included (DWI), and Disabled Women Support Organisation (DWSO), to deploy community engagements on the violence and discriminatory patterns that exist in their communities that are currently affecting the dignity and wellbeing, of girls and women with disabilities, and hindering their full participation in the society. 

The purpose was to offer an open and safe platform for dialogue with community leaders who included traditional, religious, political leaders, as well as local OPDs, families, and health workers so as to contribute to changing perceptions, as well as develop strategies at community level to prevent and respond to GBV. The thee OPDs also Conducted capacity building workshops through collaborating with other local OPDs to enhance their capacities to coordinate disability activities and coordinate training for women and girls with disabilities and district level focal persons to ensure they are adequately equipped with knowledge and skills to identify and respond to GBV. They also raised awareness on the needs of women and girls with disabilities through production and dissemination of GBV and SRHR information in accessible formats, while  documenting and tracking GBV cases and testimonies of survivors, as well as creation of a database of the trained women and girls.

Chirongwa cheSpotlight chatipa mukana wekuti semadzimai ane hurema tidzidze nenyaya dzinotibata, zvimwe zvacho zvinoitika tisingataure nekuti hatizive kuti imhirizhonga, asi nekuda kwedzidziso yatiri kuwana taakuziva zvekuita kana tasangana nemhirizhonga mudzimba kana munharaunda dzatinogara. [Spotlight Initiative has given us an opportunity as women with disabilities to get a better understanding of GBV and Harmful practices and we now know how to respond and where to go when we need assistance].
Woman with a disability in Hopley

Through this partnership, over 600 women and girls with disabilities have been capacitated on GBV and SRHR increasing the number of empowered women and girls with disabilities in communities. The women can freely dialogue on GBV, SRHR and Harmful Practices with the knowledge acquired from the OPD led interventions. An estimated 300 Community leaders who included chiefs, village heads, religious leaders, healthcare workers and school heads were also engaged by the OPDs on disability inclusion and the GBV experiences of Women and Girls with disabilities. Formation of disability support groups that allow women and girls with disabilities to develop networks and receive support on available GBV and SRHR support from the OPDs network of service providers. DWI developed a guide on Mainstreaming disability in the prevention of and response to violence against women with disabilities in Zimbabwe and its translation into Shona and Ndebele as well as Sign Language.

My community members thought I would never get married because of epilepsy, they would laugh at me; and they would discourage me saying you always fall, how you will find a man to marry you. Although I already had a steady relationship with my boyfriend, marriage was the last thing I ever though of. I am glad that through the trainings, we were equipped with confidence and I got married in a proper and good way. I am happy and I haven’t faced any challenges yet.
25-year-old lady with epilepsy from Hopley District

Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) and Afro Vision Trust accompanied the OPDs to enhance local access to information targeting underrepresented social groups, and to capture and document the stories of women and girls. This documentation process has raised awareness on the challenges of women and girls with disabilities on SGBV, HP and SRHR. A documentary on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and harmful practices (HP) experiences of women and girls with disabilities in accessible format, and in local languages Shona and Ndebele. The partnership with the community media offered the community members in marginalized areas an apportunity to freely voice their concerns, engage in dialogue with their local authorities as well as share their lived experiences. ZACRAS used the Community Media to produce easy to access contents as such:

  • Spotlight Initiative - Disability Inclusion (Community Voices)
  • Disability Constituency/ Bandiko Revaneurema
  • Nhimbe FM Community Leaders Engagement 
  • Violence Against women and Girls with Disabilities in Sign Language by Vemuganga Community Radio
  • Community Dialogue on GBV and Harmful Practices 

In 2021 and 2022, UNESCO will continue to partner with OPDs to build on the momentum created with the communities, to structure the Support Groups that have been created; to refine and update the referral pathways to access GBV services, in partnership with UNFPA;  to train service providers on disability inclusion using the dedicated tools and guides that have been produced in Phase 1; and to continue collecting and managing GBV data from bottom up.