On 21 March South Africa will be celebrating Human Rights Day. Although a public holiday is always welcome, we would like to remind the public about the fact that awareness around the rights of persons with disabilities are still lagging behind that of a lot of other interest groups.
March is also International Women’s Month, and a lot of awareness has been created around the rights of women in South Africa. However, Council would like to draw attention to the fact that visually impaired women in South Africa often face a double dose of discrimination – gender- and disability based. As a result, visually impaired women are often victimized, exploited, denied access to education (and consequently to employment), and are not allowed to live full lives and to enjoy the human rights discussed in our country’s constitution.
The prevalence of visual impairment is also greater amongst women, particularly when considering preventable blindness. The reasons for this is because women, particularly those in rural areas, have less access to health services, and conditions leading to vision loss are often not picked up in time.
According to the World Blind Union (http://www.worldblindunion.org/English/support-us/Pages/Funding-our-work.aspx) women who are visually impaired often face the following challenges:
• they have less access to healthcare;
• they have less access to education;
• they have less access to employment;
• they are often subjected to abuse and violence; and
• they are also in a higher risk category for contracting HIV/AIDS.
Which brings us to the point that if they do contract HIV/AIDS, it is likely that it may take quite some time for them to be diagnosed and treated for the disease.
The challenges that visually impaired women face are therefore not just inconvenient, but also inhibiting, progressive and even life-threatening.
The UN Convention on the Rights on the Persons with Disabilities specifically addresses the rights of disabled women in the following sections:
Article:-6 (1). States Parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discriminations and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Aritcle:-6 (2). States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedom set out in the present Convention.
Council recognizes that this issue requires special attention and appointed a South African Blind Women’s Organisation to focus specifically on the needs and challenges in the lives of visually impaired women in South Africa.
We appeal to government departments, the private sector, and individuals to extend a helping hand to visually impaired women, who are also mothers, sisters and daughters.
One of the ways in which you can assist, is by becoming a donor or a bequester (click here).