Leave no one behind: Spotlight Initiative a boon to women with disabilities
Joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative supports women and girls with disabilities to become financially independent in Zimbabwe
Chipinge, Zimbabwe – Angeline Mlambo, 41, from Chipinge rural district says her life turned around for better when the joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls programme (Spotlight Initiative) began work in her village.
As a person with a disability, Angeline has survived abuse and discrimination by her own close family members including her husband.
Angeline says, “My husband would constantly insult me. He would withhold money from me even if I needed it to buy food for the household; he would insist on doing it himself.”
“My husband’s family considered me useless because I was not able to work with my hands to make a living for myself like other women do – like washing clothes and farming,” says Angeline while pointing towards her right hand, which has been partially paralyzed since birth.
Angeline’s experience is sadly not a rare occurrence for women with disabilities in Zimbabwe and across the world. According to the World Bank’s brief on Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities published in December 2019, girls and women with disabilities face up to 10 times more violence than women and girls without disabilities.
Women with disabilities are 2 to 4 times more likely to experience intimate partner violence. These factors can be attributed to them being targeted by perpetrators because of limited physical mobility or means of communication.
Disability rights are human rights
When Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe (LCDZ) introduced awareness programmes in Chipinge, Angeline’s situation began to change. “Through LCDZ, I learnt that I could take care of myself and be independent even as a woman with a disability. I have also learnt about my rights and how the law protects people like me. I now feel empowered to overcome the challenges I face, and I know where to report abuse and receive assistance,” said Angeline.
Under the Spotlight Initiative, UNDP has partnered with LCDZ to provide women and girls with a platform to learn about their rights and include them in law and policy making processes.
Project Officer of LCDZ, Ms. Isabel Chipunza said, “Meaningful participation of women and girls with disabilities in political and public life has been a core principle of LCDZ under Spotlight Initiative. Capacitating women and girls with disabilities to participate in national and subnational decision-making processes and strengthening the capacity of local leadership and community cadres to support this vulnerable group will go a long way in addressing their unique challenges and building a more inclusive society.”
Building women’s economic empowerment in communities
LCDZ has also provided women and girls with disabilities in Chipinge with capital to start their own projects to foster economic empowerment. These projects, including agriculture and poultry farming, have been essential in giving women in this community a sense of ownership, and a means to provide for their families without overdependence on their male partners.
“With the support of LCDZ, I learnt that being a person with a disability does not prevent me from living life like able bodied persons. I am now able to cultivate my own garden. Through the borrowing and lending project, I was able to buy Guineafowl eggs, and now I have started my own project, with over 100 Guineafowls that I can sell to generate income, provide food for my family, and take my children to school,” says Angeline with pride beaming from her eyes.
UN support to women and girls with disabilities in Zimbabwe
There are many challenges and discriminatory practices that inhibit the meaningful participation of women and girls with disabilities in decision making and development processes. As one of the six UN Agencies implementing the European Union (EU) funded Spotlight Initiative in Zimbabwe, UNDP, in partnership with LCDZ, continues to support women and girls with disabilities in this area, and is also providing them with access to economic empowerment opportunities.
Head of Governance, and Spotlight Initiative Technical Focal Point at UNDP, Ms. Tafadzwa Muvingi said, “Within Spotlight Initiative, the UN has successfully championed transformative initiatives which have led to increased participation of women and girls with disabilities in development and decision-making processes, as well as the gender-based violence response in Zimbabwe.”
Ms. Muvingi added, “Empowerment of women and girls with disabilities in this regard is central to enhancing their voice and agency and addressing the barriers they face in accessing sexual and gender-based violence related services and participating in legislative processes.”
To date, UNDP has trained over 610 women and girls with disabilities on human rights, access to justice and sexual and gender-based violence services. In addition, over 1,200 women and girls and representative of Organizations for Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) have been supported to participate in public consultations on the National Budget, Disability Bill and Policy, Constitutional Amendment Bill, principles for the Gender Equality and Sexual Harassment Bills, and age of consent to accessing reproductive healthcare services, to mention a few.
Message to women and girls with disabilities
Asked what message she would like to share with other women and girls with disabilities, Angeline said, “Firstly, accept who you are and realize you are a human being like everyone else. Secondly, do not look down on yourself because of your disability. You are more than capable, and I encourage you to work for yourself and be able to sustain your own livelihood.”
About Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls
The Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative of the UN, which has received generous funding from the European Union (EU). Zimbabwe is one of 22 countries globally and 8 countries in Africa that have benefitted from this programme with a funding commitment of USD 30 million from the EU. Since the programme’s launch in 2019, the UN in Zimbabwe has been implementing projects in five provinces across the country, namely: Harare, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, and Matabeleland South. As at the end of December 2021, the Zimbabwe Spotlight Initiative programme had reached a total of over FIVE million beneficiaries, including over THREE million women and girls, and about TWO million men and boys.