Policies guiding and regulating the welfare of rural women living with disabilities – in connection with their fundamental rights and freedom in the Nkandla Local Municipality – were assessed during research done by Mr Lindokuhle Ngcobo who graduated with a Master of Social Science qualification.
Said Ngcobo: ‘People living with a disability, particularly women, find themselves ignored and neglected when it comes to policy inclusion and gender mainstreaming in public and private sectors, and society in general. Through the effort that has been made by the national government to advance the rights of women living with disabilities, there has been a gap in the implementation of these policies at a local level.’
Ngcobo said the challenges of women living with disabilities were more noticeable in rural areas than in urban areas. ‘In rural areas, women living with disabilities deal with limited resources and services as well as attitudinal and environmental challenges which limit their participation and inclusion in matters determining the welfare of their lives.
‘In these regions, communities discriminate, dehumanise, ridicule, and exclude people living with disabilities, women in particular, due to pervasive societal practices and norms which have a negative perception of people living with disabilities. Being a woman with a disability from a low-income family often fuels hate and various forms of discrimination towards that person.’
He noted that in most developing regions, women living with disabilities experienced a greater extent of limited agility, access to health, employment, formal education, awareness, and access to information about their rights.
His research findings reveal that the majority of women living with disabilities are not aware of their rights and the functioning of such women and girls is determined by wider contextual, social, historical, and gendered power relations.
Ngcobo recommends that ‘there should be a demonstration of political will by the government, which must increase budgets for institutions that implement disability-oriented policies as well as those organisations that are mandated to enhance the welfare of people living with disabilities. The resourcing and financing of these institutions allow them to execute their mandate effectively and ensures the progressive realisation of the rights of women with disabilities. These efforts should include creating a vibrant disability fund to ensure reliable disbursements of grants to people with disabilities, including women with disabilities in rural areas.’
Ngcobo thanked his supervisor, Dr Mabuyi Gumede, participants in the study, and his family for the guidance, support and valuable information.