As a step towards overcoming the marginalisation of disabled people in Egypt, the organisation Handicap International is launching an initiative entitled “change towards an inclusive society for persons with disabilities” on 10 April. The programme is funded by the European Union and co-founded by Nahdet Al-Mahrousa Institution.
The governor of Cairo , in addition to representatives from the National Council for Disability Affairs and the Ministry of social solidarity, will be asked to give speeches about the current affairs and obstacles of disabled people in Egypt. Suggestions will be discussed and an action plan will be drafted, taking into consideration the best ways to for society to become more inclusive towards the integration of disabled people.
“The main objective of this project is empowering the disabled people organisations (DPOs) and young people with disabilities to undertake a prominent role in civil society and policy making strategies,” said Jehan Farouk, the project manager. “The project pays special attention to disabled women and youth. It aims mainly at increasing the awareness of the activists to the rights of disabled people in Egypt and helping to provide them with the required technical support to be capable of defending such marginalised segments of society.”
The project teaches disabled activists how to discuss their problems with decision makers and how to defend their rights regarding certain issues, such as providing equal employment opportunities and establishing equipped youth centres for them.
“Handicap International is a large organisation that has branches in 60 countries around the globe. It pays attention to different kinds of mental and physical disabilities, whether these originated in the womb, at birth, or are the result of war, accidents and conflicts,” she added.
In her opinion, the challenges faced by disabled people in Egypt can be summarised into four main problems. “The first is the absence of certain legislations, laws and general policies that clearly define the rights and duties of disabled people in different segments of society. A draft of a new law was submitted to the parliament for consideration, however, there is still some confusion regarding this crucial issue,” she added.
The second problem is related to society’s general knowledge, or lack of, about disabilities and the mistaken stereotypes around this issue. “The general public often don’t know how to deal with people with disabilities. They may be scared of them and this makes their parents feel ashamed and force them to hide them from the public. That’s why we still don’t have any statistics about the exact numbers of disabled people in Egypt or their disabilities,” she noted.
The third problem is more relevant to NGOs and charities dedicated to helping disabled people. “Such institutions have a shortage of information and knowledge about the special categories they serve. They need to acquire certain skills before approaching disabled people in order to be able to understand their sufferings more and represent them in a better way,” she added.
The fourth problem goes back to disabled people themselves. Surprisingly, Farouk explained that people with disabilities must carry part of the responsibility. “Disabled people in Egypt tend to marginalise themselves. They prefer to be isolated from others and always expect people to deal with them in a certain way. This can be considered a psychological side-effect of the disability itself. Thus, it’s important to convince them to go out into society and integrate themselves,” she said.
From her point of view, mass media also plays a crucial role in marginalising the disabled. “You can find a few number of TV programmes dedicated to discussing the problems of people with disabilities and most of them host decision-makers to talk about the issue. We need to go out to the streets to meet the real people who suffer and listen to them instead of just talking or writing about them,” she noted.
This cannot be done without the help of the government, media, and NGOs, as well as the disabled people themselves. “We hope that this initiative will be a small step towards solving the problems of disabled people in Egypt,” Farouk concluded.