Embrace gender but incorporate disability

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By John Matsi

LIFE is such a simple theme when viewed from a superficial perspective but a complex and sophisticated journey when scrutinised through a closer lens. While the privileged category of people cherish the contentment of life, marginalised groups, especially women and persons with disabilities, on the other hand, endure misery manifested in everyday interactions.

Sociologists coined the term classes to illustrate social categories different people identify themselves with. One’s class is determined by economic status, sex, ability (vs disability), race and so forth. Besides that, certain groups enjoy and exert socio-economic dominance over others, which lead to another social concept of minority/inferior vs dominant groups.

The social category you find yourself in moulds your way of thinking and action towards fellow humans believed to belong to a class other than your own. Consequently, men regard women as inferior to them whereas people with disabilities are viewed as less humans – a situation which has resulted in the infringement of human rights of people of these groups.

However, the open secret that most perpetrators of discrimination to the said groups fail to pick up is that unlike fixed traits like sex, some of the conditions that characterise other minority groups, such as disabilities, are impersonal, and do not discriminate against any social class. Basically, this means that within a blink of an eye, one can easily transform from the dominant to a minority group through various means that I suppose are known by us all.

Although we may have different minority groups, the battle they are faced with is similar. Much as women are strategising against male dominance, people with disabilities, on the other hand, are also confronted with the task of raising awareness that calls for equal treatment.
Unfortunately, after 25 years of independence we still have people whose perception and behaviour towards people with disabilities is still at the 18th century level and strive to hide it under the carpet. This is evident in the manner in which people with disabilities are still treated, be it in their employment, households and the society at large. It is so easy to abuse a defenceless person with disability, or mock or discriminate against them at in the workplace. But, as in the case of any other oppressed group, to people with disabilities in collaboration with converted and sympathisers, social change harmonious to all members of society remains a practical objective.

In all, gender and disabilities have a lot in common. Hence, to attain justice for all, collective mainstreaming strategies should be developed, formulated and applied to both correspondingly.

*John Matsi is a Master of Gender student and a disabilities activist.

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