Malawi’s deaf population still suffers from rampant cases of stigma and discrimination, a trend largely perpetuated by employers who continue to shun the deaf even when best qualified for occupational positions.
This has forced the Malawi National Association for the Deaf (Manad) to intensify the campaign for the enactment of pro-disability friendly legislation, hoping for the better against a strong negative tide of stigma and discrimination.
Manad Executive Director, Juliana Likomba, said she was disappointed that despite increased public awareness campaigns about the rights of people with disabilities, specifically the deaf, cases of child rights abuses still went on unabated.
“It is a very sad situation for the deaf and people with other forms of disability at the moment. It is as if we are still the outcasts and we blame all this on delays to put in place disability-friendly legislation. We need disability issues to be incorporated in the Republican constitution,” said Likomba.
She said, without requisite legislation pertaining to people with various forms of mental and physical challenges, life would continue to be full of bumps and despair.
“We are very worried. The deaf are not being employed by private companies as well as government. They always find excuses to deny us our rights and freedoms. Life cannot go on like this,” said Likomba.
Malawi’s deaf population has not been sitting idle, waiting for the occasional help. They have taken the leading role helping others, according to Likomba.
Just last week, they have been to three major hospitals in Southern Malawi cleaning wards and yards and helping patients. They have also given out assorted items to those who have nobody to look up to, in one of the many attempts to shed off the helpless tag attacked to their being.
“We are able and capable. Only that Malawians often let us down. The good thing is that we are willing to fight for ourselves and children,” she said.
Minister responsible for the Elderly and People with Disabilities, Reen Kachere, has vowed to do all she can to bail the deaf out of their current quagmire.
“Government is committed to putting in place requisite legislation aimed at making the lives of people who are deaf, or have other forms of disability, smooth. Life is supposed to be fair for everybody, though people have sometimes tried to make it unbearable for others. We care,” said Kachere.
Malawi currently has no pro-disability legislation, leaving the fate of the disabled at the mercy of human devices. Some government offices also lack disability friendly structures.
A disability policy formulated in as many as ten years ago now gathers dust at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, angering the Federation for Disability Organizations in Malawi.