According to the United Nations girls with disabilities are the most disadvantaged from all the vulnerable groups. Many young disabled girls will grow up in a community or society where their human rights will be denied. In certain cultures and communities these girls will be raised to believe that they are not able to participate in society and live full meaningful lives.
Girls who come from poor households and those who experience abuse and violence become more disempowered because of their socio-economic circumstances. They are often misused and made to feel that they are a burden for their family. It is also easier to make disabled girls feel that because of their disability they are not beautiful and worthy of a complete and good life. They are made to believe that they cannot have a boyfriend, may not marry one day and that having children one day is completely taboo.
Astra School for Learners with Special Educational Needs, Cape Town
Nine girls from Astra School between the ages of fourteen and eighteen attended the first session of an empowerment programme for girls with disabilities.
These girls have physical and learning disabilities, whilst some have both these disabilities. It is important that these girls understand their human rights so that they can confidently start building their future.
They need to be exposed to other disabled female role models, so that they can become aware that they too can become successful. It does not matter what they decide to pursue in life, whether it is to study, whether it is to work from home or whether they work in their community - as long as they realize that they have rights and that they can have aspirations to lead full and happy lives.
This is where the school play an important role as they can enable the girls to attend empowerment programmes. The girls participated to the best of their ability and it was an eye-opener for them to see that other disabled women achieved their goals and dreams, despite having to face barriers and struggles. Exposing them to successful disabled female role models, boosts their confidence and makes them realize that they too can dream of a good future.
Sandy, one of the girls that attended the programme, commented that “I learnt that I also have rights, and that I should not allow people to stop me from doing things which will better my life – I must push forward and never give up”.