By Silence Gwande.

For development to take place, the society should adapt to differences and value diversity with everybody participating in policy implementation and development process.

As citizens we have the right to effectively participate and be heard in every issue that concerns the development of nation. By sidelining other stakeholders, development in the country will be at its lowest ebb thereby shattering all hopes and efforts of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Every individual irrespective of situation, condition colour, race or creed has the right to actively engage in development process. The process has to be inclusive and accommodative to every citizen.

Nevertheless people with disabilities have for a long time been victims of intolerant societies which directly and indirectly sideline them simply because of their situation or impairment. This kind of discrimination is failing the nation and the country remains stuck in socio-economic paralysis and unable to move forward. No one should be left behind.

Without the involvement of people with disabilities in decision making there will be always a gap between them and the able-bodied hence creating an incoherent society that does not value other groups or respect citizens’ rights in toto.

People with disabilities are hardly consulted; the societies tend to regard them as not fit enough to contribute to the national discourse. Pity is what the society has for them but sadly pity does not work or help anything, the real deal is to empower people with disabilities so as to have sustainable development.

Christopher Chuma, a visually impaired airtime seller in Kadoma feels the government is belittling and underestimating the capabilities and abilities of people with disabilities by not consulting them in matters to do with governance.

”We are not consulted in almost all aspects of development in the country on the pretex that we have nothing to offer simply because we are blind but it was going to be easy if the government sits down with us and hear from us what we are capable of and our concerns as far as national development is concerned”, he said.

UNDP recalls that many groups are excluded from development because of their status (gender, ethnicity, age, impairment or poverty).

One Charity Mubaiwa, a wheel chaired tailor at Mupandawana growth point in Gutu says it pains her that people with condition like her are treated as second class citizens by being denied opportunities to air their voices on issues to do with development and politics which seem to be a privilege of the able bodied people .

”It is quite disheartening to note that we are not even considered as first class citizens when it comes to decision making and development issues but if we are consulted we can make things happen because our ideas we have which are being suppressed”, she said adding that she once wanted to be a counsellor but was discouraged by people in the community who told her that she was not going to win due to her condition.

Other cultures do not even allow women to be involved in decision making, theirs is to listen to the husbands and comply with the directive thereof. By so doing poverty and inequality will continue to torment the nation. What should be embraced by the societies is inclusive development.

A woman from Rushinga in Mount Darwin who only identified herself as Mai Portia says it was not allowed in their culture to be involved in decision making processes to do with the development of family, community and even the country as it was a preserve of their husbands and theirs was to listen, agree and do as they are told.

”We are not entitled to decision making even in our church we are told to respect our husbands and do what they tell us to do without asking much”, she said.

Inclusive development as defined by IDDC (2010) refers to ensuring that all phases of the development cycle (design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation) include a disability dimension and that persons with disabilities are meaningfully and effectively participating in development process and policies. Thus the active involvement of people with disabilities is particularly important to overcome their isolation and invisibility.

The old saying that goes ‘disability does not mean inability’ virtually holds water in the sense that these people might be physically or visually impaired but their ideas are very important hence empowering and engaging them will give them chance to explore some skills they have as well as what they need to fully realize their potentials. This will enable them to live independently and actively involved in all aspects of life.

Poverty Reduction Forum Director Judith Kaulem emphasised the need for inclusive participation and multi-sectoral approach in ensuring positive development and an end to poverty.

”There is need for everyone to participate in developmental issues and have access to information in order to demystify Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address social ,economic and environmental dimensions”, she said.

People with disabilities should have access to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications including information and communication technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and rural areas (UNCRPD Article 9).

There are a barrage of barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities to independently do things. These include among others environmental barriers, physical barriers, communication barriers and a host of institutional barriers which comprises the legal system, employment, political system and so forth.

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