The ones that we do not see!

5 Dec


On Tuesday evening I was invited to give the keynote address at an event hosted by Hlanganisa Institue for Development in Southern Africa and The Joint Gender Fund.
The event was to celebrate their 10th-year anniversary as well as release the toolkit and address the topic of amplifying the voices of women with disability and affected by gender-based violence.
The topic of my speech highlighted the fact that people with disabilities are aften forgotten or hidden and therefore neglected, which is in itself another form of abuse. I spoke on topics related wo a personal story that included the life and abuse of a family member.

The evening was an absolute eye opener for me as I had the opportunity of meeting some of our hidden warriors. On arrival, we sat in the reception area, meeting and greeting the guests and panelists I managed to engage with Mme Bridgette Dhlamini who shared her frustration of being booked into a Johannesburg hotel that claims to have wheelchair access but in fact, it does not.

Mme Bridgette Dhlamini

The event was compered by the powerful Vangile Gantsho, she also gave an incredibly thought-provoking poetry performance. Her work can be found via


The opening remarks were given by the Director of Hlenganisa Institute for development In Southern Africa, Bongiwe Ndondo.

My warrior sister Miranda Lephoko, form the National Council of and for People with Physical Disability shared her testimony of how our system failed her and left her paralyzed and wheelchair bound. She was in an abusive marriage and chose to leave the matrimonial home after he threatened to kill her. She shared the story of how she would have to work long hours and when she refused sex with her husband as she was tired, he would accuse her of having an affair. This jealous behaviour led to him going through her phone messages and calls. One night, whilst taking a bath she heard smashing sounds that came from the living room, She walked out and saw that he smashed their furniture and galssware with a kitchen knife. He then proceeded to threaten to kill her. She knew then that she had to play it safe but would have to leave home. That night she managed to calm him down and they slept. On the next day, she went to work with her toothbrush and face cloth hidden in her bag. She informed her family and they went to see the damage of the home. They agreed that she should leave the husband. Whilst living with her parents, her husband called her to tell her about a supposed geyser problem that was at the house. She then went the next day and was escorted by work colleagues. On arrival, she found that he had changed the locks on the front door, as she was about to leave, he arrived and had a gun and threated to kill her.
Her collegues who were sitting in the car on the side of the road saw what was happening and called the police immeditaly. Unfortunately, the police did not arrive. They then called her father who arrived and seemed​ to defuse​ the situation.

As they were walking to her father’s​ car, she tried to enter the passenger door but it was locked, so she waited for her father to enter the car and unlock​ the door. At that moment​,​ she saw that her husband was pointing​ his gun at her and the all she heard was a loud bang. When she woke up she found a dead weight body lying over her. Her husband had shot her three times and then shot himslef in his mouth thus killing himself. She then blacked out and slipped into a coma. On the day that she awoke from her coma, was the day that they buried her hsuband.
She saw that as a revelation from God taking him and giving her life. She then had to heal and then adapt to her new life as a woman​ in a wheel chair. As she was a succesful and vibrant woman before the crime ocurred, she has now made it her mission to eduacte people on abuse, women with disabilities and how to pick up the pieces when your life has been shattered.
“Being able to walk one day, and not being able to move the next was a difficult transition”.
DtlYLXeX4AEfyK4 Miranda Lephoko

The programmes Manager at HiDSA Chiedza Chagutah spoke on the research report, titled Amplifying the Voices of Women Disability Report. Some of the findings of the report included te following:
1. A lot of violence​ occurs in institutionalized​ centres and schools for learners with disabilities.
2. There​ is a lack of understanding of disability in relation to Gender Be violence.
3. GBV is often perpetuated by cultural beliefs and myths.
4. There is a lack of access to social services
The full toolkit will be distributed​ to NGOs across South Africa.

DtlhfP3WkAALJvO Chiedza Chagutah

The panel discussion​ led by Bongiwe Ndondo
The panelists​ included​ Commissioner​ Nomasonto Mazibuko from the Commission​n of Gender Equality South Africa, Bridgette Dlamini from Siyalungisa, an NGO based in KZN. Roseweter Mudarikwa of Network of African Women with Disabilities and Bongi Zuma of Create #GBVandDisability.

Commissioner​ Nomasonto Mazibuko says that we need to name and shame people who continue to violate women with disabilities​​​ so that they can be held accountable. Individuals, institutions, ​and companies all together must account​ for their ill treating “In Africa,​ we are considered a cure and gems when it suits them and a curse when they feel like it”. Such myths have led to mutilation, where our bodies parts are used for muti. She also stated that albinism is considered ​a disability even though it is a genetic skin condition.

Mme Bridgettte Dhlamini ​ ​said that the African proverb of Ubuntu, which ‘translates I am because you are’, no longer exists and has been replaced by individualism​​m. “Where people no​ longer​r care about or for women with disability. Instead,​ there is more abuse. She gave a harrowing testimony of how on her last trip from KZN to Johannesburg she was booked on a Mango flight. All went well and she arrived safely. On the day she was to return to KZN, she was told by ground staff that she was not allowed to travel as passengers who are wheelchair bound needed a chaperone in order to fly. This, of course, caused her a delay of four hours. Fortunately, after waiting at the desk, friends of hers who were also traveling that day came to check in and then agreed to assist as the chaperone.

Roseweter Mudarikwe says that women in the Human Rights Movement need to stand and speak for women with disabilities, they need to help the blind and the partially blind women get fair trials and proper access to justice.S ​he gave testimonies of how partially impaired and blind women are abused by so-called​ caregivers​. When they complain to officials they are then told that they are being ungrateful as these people are going out of their way to assist​ them, despite the fact that they are abusing them. She also shared stories of when these women went to report the crime they received​ secondary victimization​ from police officers who the asked questions such as:
What did he look like, can​ you describe him?
What race was he?
Did he have a mustache​?
Blind and visually​ impaired​ women have often been raped​ and mugged on the road after recieving their grant money and nobody helps them.

Bongi Zuma shared stories of how women with disabilities are raped​ and the police do not assist​​with opening​ cases. This then leads to the​ rapists​ taunting and intimidating them, as they know they hold the power. She also spoke to the fact that members​ from the deaf community had problems with opening​ cases at police stations as the there was a lack​ of tolerance from police officials. As they cannot speak and the police do not know sign langauge, they attempt to write. In one​ case the survivor was labeled​ as a fool. We need to take into consideration that blind people​ learn to ​sign and are often not word perfect especially​ in a language​ that they do not speak.

The event was closed with a​ vote of thanks from HiDSA Board member and CEO of Soul City SA, Lebo Ramafoko. She reflected on the Research Report, and how the toolkit and training manual will be instrumental to organisations that cater to​ women with disabilities.
​ ​​​
For more information​​ contact​:
+27 65 965 0289.

One Response to “The ones that we do not see!”

  1. Rue Chidoori December 6, 2018 at 2:08 am #

    Thank you so much Rosie for this, indeed women with disabilities are often not heard, often hidden away as something to be ashamed of-this is problematic, as the new report revealed the risks factors that heighten the probability of women with disabilities experiencing gbv-as neglect and isolation, the particular disability itself, the lack of access to services that speak to their unique needs. Women with disabilities are speaking out- nothing for us,without us-we need to rethink mainstreaming Disability into gbv programming & the Toolkit developed by Hlanganisa is one step towards this.

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