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Empowering parents with disabled children

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We are all equal in the image of God and yet there are some people who feel they are more important than others.

Gone are the days when people used to love one another and cared for each other.

Today, there is no love among people and this is why some have lost their values and are all over abducting and killing people living with albinism all in the name of making fast money.

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This is what brings us to some of the children with disability in the country, who continue to suffer as their parents are unwilling to take care of them.

Some parents would have loved to give birth to able-bodied children but God thought otherwise and gave them children with disabilities.

While some of the children were ably born and only got a disability as they grew up others were born with a disabilty.

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But as they say disability is not inability, it is wrong for those parents who fail to take care of their children with disabilities with others even going to the extent of locking them in the house.

Parents of Disabled Children Association of Malawi (Podcam) Executive Director Mirriam Namanja says her office gets stories of some parents neglecting their children with disabilities.

She says all children regardless of whether they have a disability have a right to be looked after well by their parents as well as to be given all their needs including being sent to school.

Namanja stresses the need for parents with children with disabilities to give them the care and not neglect them.

While many organisations are working on different issues that affect people in the country, Namanja says children with various disabilities also need support and that why Podcam came in targeting them with advocacy activities.

She says the aim of Podcam is to, among others, create a society that will promote the rights, survival, protection and development of children with various disabilities.

“We want to see to it that children with disabilities enjoy equal opportunities,” Namanja says.

She says parents were concerned that the rights of children with disabilities were being overlooked and that there were no equal opportunities for children with disabilities in the country.

The common understanding by the parents is that unlike all other children, children with disabilities demand constant specialised care and heightened communication skills on the part of parents, especially those with developmental disabilities.

In order to give children with disabilities and their parents a better life taking into consideration that others are struggling in these tough economic times, Podcam signed a Memorandum of Understanding with First Discount House (FDH) Limited in a project known as Tingathe.

Tingathe is a project that comes up to say we can do it regardless of whatever the challenges we go through.

FDH Head of Marketing Sobuza Ngwenya says the Tingathe project is coming in after their partnership with Podcam.

“All we want is to support parents of children with disabilities in the country so that they are able to run small businesses and generate income to support their children and be able to, among others, send them to school and live a normal life,” Ngwenya says.

He says FDH has pumped in K5 million revolving fund which is not as a loan but as a grant.

“The partnership will last for three years but then we will be discussing as we go along on the progress and depending on the outcomes which I know will be successful, we will continue,”Ngwenya says.

He says FDH in being a responsible citizen and it was important to take up a leading role of supporting parents of children with disability.

Ngwenya says children with disabilities deserve a better life just like any other children.

Podcam Board Chairperson Godfrey Chafuwa says the revolving fund has come at a right time and that it will go a long way in empowering parents of children with disabilities.

“Many of the parents of children with disabilities are failing to make ends meet because of the economic challenges. Many of them do not work and so we have been trying to look at ways to support them so that they look after their children and we are happy that FDH accepted to partner us in the Tingathe project,” Chafuwa says.

He says they decided to use the project as a revolving fund to benefit more members, disclosing that Podcam has thousands of members.

Parents of children with disabilities were all but smiles during the official handover of the K5 million cheque.

They sang songs of joy appreciating the gesture by FDH – Mwayi mwayi mwayi mwayi wa nzama wofukula ndi manja khasu lilipo – and true to many, this is an opportunity for them to borrow money for small-scale businesses.

“I have wanted to do smaller businesses to generate income for my home and with this revolving fund, it’s like manna coming from heaven,” says one of the women.

Chafuwa says their target is to reach out to more parents of children with disabilities and that through their other project, they will train all the members on some of the basics of business management so as to run their businesses better.

“As I said, this is an empowerment programme, we want the parents of children with disabilities to be empowered and do more and change the face of their families. But knowing that this is a revolving fund, we thought it wise to train them so that they succeed in their business but also be able to repay the loans so as to benefit others,” he says.

Last year, Podcam announced that they intended to build a K25 million resource centre in Blantyre.

The facility was earmarked to complement government efforts to curb problems faced by children with disabilities, and that it was set to provide services such as vocational skills, physiotherapy and other recreational processes.

One of the parents raising children with disabilities, George Matipwiri, says physically and mentally challenged children are struggling to access proper facilities and services like physiotherapy and speech therapy although he is quick to say that government is doing its best to ensure that children with disabilities are fully enjoying their rights.

Matipwiri says there is need for concerted efforts from other stakeholders if the country is to eradicate the spirit of asking for alms by people with disability.

“We first ought to nurture their lives as they are young and if we do that, we are assured of a bright future for them,” he says.

Chafuwa says Podcam is trying its level best by engaging in different projects aimed at supporting parents of children with disabilities so as to take care of their children.

He says children with disabilities in the country are underdeveloped due to a number of reasons, citing, among others, high levels of poverty, scarcity of resources and lack of information on cross-cutting issues, making it difficult for children with disabilities to make informed choices.

“There is also high employment levels, structural imbalances, lack of formal and informal training and education for children and young people with disabilities and lack of promotional activities targeting children and young people with disabilities,” Chafuwa says.

He says Podcam is mindful of the need to build a sense of solidarity among its members so that they are able to achieve its goals and objectives.

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