A better place to live
- Disabled women living in a temporary rehabilitation centre at Jorpati can’t wait to move into a disabled-friendly building, but the shelter operators worry financial and bureaucratic hurdles could hinder their ‘dream project’
Dec 15, 2014-
Reaching the temporary rehabilitation centre run by Nepal Disabled Women Association (NDWA) in Jorpati is not easy, especially in rainy season. The road that leads to the centre is riddled with potholes become traps, rendering it difficult to traverse even for persons without any disability.
“It’s particularly difficult for our blind sisters,” says Muna Rai, who cooks for and tends to 14 disabled women living in the three-storied shelter house situated in the midst of a congested locality.
A permanent building, which is supposed to be more spacious and disabled-friendly, is waiting to be completed, and the women are eager to move there.
“We’ve learnt to make do with the situation, but can’t wait to move into a better place,” says Nirmaya Magrati, who was four when her feet stopped functioning.
A native from Gorkha, Magrati has been living at the rehabilitation centre for six years. To her, the other women living in the centre is her family. “Some of us are blind, some of us can’t walk, some of us can’t talk, and some of us can’t comprehend what is going on. But we try and make sense of this world through one another,” she says. NDWA General Secretary Nirmala Dhital says female disabled persons have it worse when it comes to adjusting in a society like ours.
“We are women, disabled and most come from poor background. It is an extremely vulnerable situation to be in,” says Dhital.
NDWA has been pushing for the completion of the centre’s building being constructed at Mahankal Village in Gokarna, but the struggle to complete the centre is just one part of a larger spectrum of problems faced by disabled women in the country.
One of the major challenges, according to Dhital, is the lack of proper mechanism to tackle violence faced by disabled women. To start with, Dhital says, of the 19 other safe shelter homes for victims of violence-- eight of which are set up by the government-- none have infrastructure that is disable-friendly.
“Due to lack of proper infrastructure women are constantly reminded of their limitations,” Dhital says “The frustration multiplies we are dealing with disabled women who have been abused.”
The latest data available regarding violence against disabled women is a 2007 study conducted in four districts. According to the findings of that research, disabled women reported 80 cases of some forms of abuse, ranging from sexual assault, domestic violence to verbal abuse.
Since 2009, NDWA, has been fighting cases of abuse, but the success rate has been extremely low. “First off, they can’t afford good lawyers. And secondly, the inability of disabled women to express themselves give the abusers the benefit of doubt,” says Dhital.
She cites one particular case where a young disabled child was allegedly raped by the member of the community that was looking after her. The accused, who himself was wheelchair-bound, was cleared of charges because he claimed that he couldn’t have possibly raped the girl because of his disability. However, Dhital argues, the man was polio-infected which meant that technically he could have overpowered the girl.
“A lot of them can’t express themselves well and their pleas get lost in translation,” Dhital says. “The problem is that people don’t tend to trust the testimony of disabled women or girls because of ingrained discrimination that many society members harbour against them.”
The United Nations states that there are over 1 billion people with some forms of disability who face not only physical barriers but also social, economic and attitudinal barriers. The UN also states that disability is associated with 20 percent of global poverty with a majority of them living in developing countries.
The census of 2011 estimates that 1.94 percent of total population is disabled, but activists say that the number could be anywhere around 20 percent.
Humkala Pandey, undersecretary at the Disability Right Promotion Section of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare says they receive complaints from disabled women who are shunned by offices and organisations. “Many organisations don’t want to take them in because they see them as a burden,” says Pandey.
She says they are in the process of devising a comprehensive guideline to address the issue. Activist have pointed out the need for a proper mechanism to deal with their plight and fast track courts for women. Encouraging disabled women to take up various trainings to make them economically independent is also on the cards.
“There are many things that need to change in order to make the country disabled-friendly,” says Pandey.
While Dhital and Pandey agree that setting up an exemplary rehabilitation house for disabled, with special services for victims of abuse, could be a positive start, they also worry that monetary limitations and bureaucratic hurdles could stall the “dream project”.
Meanwhile, at the Jorpati rehabilitation centre, its occupants wait for the day to move to a better building, in a better locality. They are oblivious of the financial and bureaucratic stumbling blocks that need overcoming for that day to arrive.
“I just hope we have a comfortable bathroom,” Magrati says. “You know that makes a lot of difference for us.”
Published: 16-12-2014 09:08