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‘Disabled people not charity cases’

by Sunday Express
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PEOPLE living with disabilities are often viewed as some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged in Lesotho. They face many challenges in accessing important services and they are often forced to depend on relatives or other care-givers.

Established in 1989, the Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD) seeks to address such challenges as well as and raise public awareness on issues of disability.

Sunday Express (SE) reporter Mimi Machakaire recently spoke to LNFOD Director Nkhasi Sefuthi who expounded on the work of the organisation in addressing the challenges. Below are excerpts of the interview.

SE: What is your mandate and what efforts has your organisation undertaken in addressing the concerns of people living with disabilities?

Sefuthi: People with disabilities face discrimination and this is happening largely because we lack a clear legal framework to protect and advance their rights. That is why we are working on the legislation which will protect the rights of people with disabilities. If their rights are being threatened then they will be able to claim enforcement in the courts of law.

SE: What are some of the main challenges experienced by people with disabilities?

Sefuthi: People with disabilities are still viewed as charity cases. Everyone who deals with people with disabilities wants to give them the passive services which are not actually improving their lives.

Another challenge is that Lesotho does not have a legislation to protect the rights of people with disabilities. As a result, a lot of human rights violations take place all the time.

At the same time policy makers and government officials do not consider disability as a priority and that poses a big challenge to us because this means that the solutions we are proposing to them will take long to be implemented.

People also believe that those with disabilities are sick and should therefore be ‘healed’.

That is a huge problem because they do not accept people with disabilities as they are.

SE: What is your take on service provision? Are disabled people sufficiently catered for?

Sefuthi: Many children with disabilities do not attend schools. This is because those schools are inaccessible in terms of infrastructure. Even those who were already admitted find themselves in very difficult situations where they end up dropping out because the physical environment might not be conducive.

For example, we know of some young girls who use wheelchairs who had to drop out because the toilets were not accessible at their school. It was quite difficult for them to use those toilets.

At the same time, Lesotho does not have affirmative action provisions that would help people with disabilities find employment easily.

Lesotho is facing high unemployment which means those who are very vulnerable will suffer more because if the whole country is struggling to get employed, what about those who are already discriminated against because of their disability?

In terms of health issues, we find that most of the clinics are not accessible and the nurses are not trained on how to handle people with disabilities and as a result people with disabilities are discriminated against while trying to access services.

We know of a pregnant woman who attended the pre-natal clinic and the nurses discouraged her from having her child only because she had disabilities.

They were saying ‘you cannot be having a baby when you are disabled’ and this shows that sexual and reproductive rights are still an issue for people with disabilities.

There are so many challenges that our people are facing in general and we need to work hard to make sure that all those challenges are properly addressed.

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