Representation of persons with disabilities is key to advancing their inclusion in communities, changing negative perceptions and increasing their contribution to development. Mr Juma Salim Ali, the Secretary of Shirikisho la Jumuiya za Watu Wenye Ulemavu Zanzibar (SHIJUWAZA), made the remarks during two days of training with journalists in Zanzibar. The training workshop was conducted on 14th and 15th May 2022 to promote positive and appropriate reporting of news with regard to People with disabilities in Zanzibar.
‘’Persons with disabilities need to be protected against all kinds of mistreatment. The media are agents of change and can bring about change in the lives of persons with disabilities. The media should practise full inclusion when reporting issues related to persons with disabilities. Understand and remember that persons with disabilities are not helpless,’’ he said.
The workshop, funded by the Foundation for Civil Society, aimed at strengthening capacity and awareness on reporting; promoting the use of appropriate language with regard to persons with disabilities to speed up inclusion, and promoting awareness of the rights of People with disabilities.
Ms Mwadawa Mohammed, SHIJUWAZA chairperson, said communities need to view People with disabilities as valued members of society and that communities should be aware of the rights of PWDs and support them in accessing those rights. Ms Mwadawa said the media could contribute to creating awareness on the challenges People with disabilities face, including stigma, and restricted access to infrastructure and social services. She added that persons with disabilities must be addressed with dignity, instead of crudely being referred to as “the disabled”.
“More importantly, the media should highlight successes that persons with disabilities attain. There are persons with disabilities working in various sectors in different capacities. Some hold posts in governmental institutions and ministries, while others are entrepreneurs, journalists and workers in the private sector. Their stories should be told so that society can see that they are committed, hardworking and are able to contribute to development,” Ms Mwadawa added.
During the workshop, journalists voiced their commitment to improving media coverage and representation of PWDs, reporting on issues impacting their lives with focus on publishing stories that provide accurate and balanced portrayal of People with disabilities. Journalists pledged to use their voices and profession through radio and programmes and articles about People with disabilities with a view to changing perceptions and how persons with disabilities are treated.
“I will continue to ensure that I highlight stories about persons with disabilities to promote inclusivity. I promise to tell stories beyond what is reported and report on the successes of persons with disabilities in beating the odds. I will also strive to promote awareness that persons with disabilities shouldn’t be discriminated against, and they should be regarded as valued and useful members of society,” said Ms Huwaida Nassor from Hits FM.
Ms Nassra Khatib from TBC promised to do a story about the involvement of People with disabilities in the forthcoming National Population and Housing Census. She also said she would prepare a report about access to education among PWDs and how they learn through technology.
Ms Amina Makame from Coconut FM said she would prepare a story about learning disparities between urban and rural schools where children with disabilities study, and analyse how the disparities affect learning and socialisation among schoolchildren.
FCS has been working with PWD organisations and other entities that work with People with disabilities for 20 years in Tanzania to advocate the voices and participation of persons with disabilities. According to its 2022-2026 Strategic Plan, FCS, as in previous plans, will continue to work towards social inclusion of People with disabilities. FCS will support and fund organisations in the Southern Zone of Tanzania where there is a high number of People with disabilities, according to available statistics, and in Zanzibar.
An estimated 60-80 million People with disabilities live in Africa (WHO, World Bank 2011). Most of them are excluded from opportunities. The inclusion of people with disabilities needs to be enhanced in all sectors of community life in order to promote their rights.