Women with disabilities campaign for equal opportunities

DODOMA: WOMEN and girls with disabilities are advocating for their voices to be heard, to be empowered, and to be given opportunities in elective and appointed leadership positions.

During a dialogue to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, representatives from 18 district councils across the country called on leaders at all levels to provide equal opportunities to girls and women with disabilities, just like other members of society.

They called for improvements in the registration of voters with disabilities, as well as making elections more accessible for them to participate in running for different positions.

They also appealed to the government to ensure that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has members with disabilities who can address their concerns during elections.

The dialogue was organised by the Movement of Women with Disabilities (MOWADITA), a group of women with disabilities in the country, supported by Action on Disability and Development (ADD) through a project funded by the Finnish government and implemented by UN-Women.

PUN Women implemented a 4-year project on strengthening women’s and girls’ meaningful participation, leadership, and economic rights (WLER) at the local level.

Deogratias Mamiro, the organisation’s Project Analyst, stated that the project is being implemented in 18 districts across six regions in the country: Arusha, Dar es Salaam, the Coast Region, Lindi, Mtwara, and Singida.

He emphasised that the project aims to increase the number of women, including young women and women with disabilities, in leadership and decision-making positions at the local level.

“This is accomplished by promoting gender-responsive norms, behaviours, and practices, women’s economic rights, and piloting gender and disability transformative and innovative measures such as care services, in line with the government,” he said.

In their recommendations to the government, Ms. Dorice Kwanga from MOWADITA stated that while the government has made significant efforts to improve the conditions of these two groups, more needs to be done by other stakeholders as well.

She highlighted some challenges that women and girls living with disabilities still face in society, including stigmazation.

“To this day, there are still cultures that do not respect women at all. There are also communities that consider disability as a curse. Therefore, being a disabled woman in such an environment means facing stigmatisation and all kinds of humiliation twice as much,” noted Ms Kwanga.

During the official launch of the project, Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office, Labour Youth, Employment, and Disabled, Patrobas Katambi, stated that despite the significant progress made in women’s leadership, more women are needed in local government decision-making to achieve the country’s goals for gender equality and equity.

“This requires combined efforts, measures, and actions, along with capacity building, to expand the pool of women who can access leadership at the local level and to enhance the effectiveness of those who already hold those roles,” said the minister.

The WLER project builds on the Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Project implemented from 2016-2022, which identified the lack of women’s leadership and economic opportunities as one of the critical challenges at the local government level.

The new project will be implemented in partnership with several stakeholders, including LGAs, community-based organisations, community development officers, social welfare officers, village and ward development officers, women’s economic empowerment groups, PWD organisations, and councillors.

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