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There are currently more than 220 000 NGOs registered with the Department of Social Development. Many of these organisations perform critical development, humanitarian, and advocacy functions, but in a changing and increasingly competitive operating environment, they are confronted with serious funding and sustainability challenges. Diversifying their funding base and attracting new individual and institutional donors should be a priority for all NGOs.

Digital technology has transformed the way society operates, interacts, and transacts. This situation presents NGOs not only with another set of challenges, but also many opportunities to strengthen their operations, build trust through increased transparency, cultivate relationships, and unlock new sources of funding.

Crowdfunding is a way of raising money from a large number of people (“the crowd”) via online platforms. It uses the Internet to harness the power of social sharing and personal networks for greater reach and exposure. There are four main types of crowdfunding based on what the person contributing the funding can expect to receive in return, namely donations, rewards, debt, and equity. Crowdfunding has been used primarily to launch start-ups and finance new businesses, but increasingly, it is gaining momentum as a powerful mechanism to mobilise financial support for NGOs, development projects, and individuals.

The global crowdfunding market was valued at $10.2 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $28.8 billion by the end of 2025.

According to Afrikstart, Africa-based crowdfunding platforms raised approximately $32.3 million in 2015. Although this accounts for less than 0.1% of global crowdfunding activities, the World Bank estimates that the value of African crowdfunding will reach an estimated $2.5 billion by 2025. South Africa dominates the African crowdfunding industry, and in 2015 had the most operational platforms (21 out of 57) and raised over 90% of the total funds raised by Africa-based platforms ($30.8 million). Platforms headquartered and operating outside the continent raised a further $94.6 million in 2015 for NGOs and projects in Africa, with most of this funding aimed at supporting projects for children, education, and women and girls.

“Crowdfunding is a tool that we can use to build layers of trust across South Africa. Between people coming together to support those in need, finding common purpose, and bridging historical divides. It is more than a single wave of positive change, it’s a multiplication of 100’s of 1000’s of overlapping actions by people who activate kindness within themselves and let it ripple out into the world.” says BackaBuddy CEO, Patrick Schofield.

NGOs in South Africa are in a fortunate position that 13 locally-based crowdfunding platforms and programmes support their fundraising efforts. These include BackaBuddy, Brownie Points, Candystick, Click ‘n Donate, Different.org, Doit4Charity, Feenix, forgood, GivenGain, Jumpstarter, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet Pledge-a-Portion, and WeBenefit.

(Profiles of the 13 crowdfunding platforms are listed below.)

These platforms offer a diverse range of benefits to NGOs, fundraisers, and donors, each with unique features relating to fundraising approaches, years of operation, number of beneficiaries, impact achieved, payment systems, and fee structures.

Most platforms not only provide a place for NGOs or projects to be listed and direct potential donors to use these to make a donation, but their functionality enables fundraisers and supporters of NGOs to mobilise donations on their behalf, often linked to national and international days such as Mandela Day (18 July) and Giving Tuesday (first Tuesday in December), and popular sporting events such as the Comrades Marathon and Cape Town Cycle Tour.

Others facilitate volunteering opportunities or generate financial support or savings for NGOs linked to shopping and procurement-related activities. There is no cost or investment required to get started, but some platforms need projects to meet their fundraising goal to access the donations received. Others allow NGOs to keep all donations, regardless of reaching their fundraising goal.

NGOs interested in crowdfunding, or already actively involved, are advised to carefully study the differences between the various platforms and engage those best suited for their specific fundraising requirements.

In addition, some crowdfunding platforms headquartered outside South Africa, such as Global Giving, GoFundMe, and JustGiving, also facilitate donations for local NGOs and projects.

Various factors are creating a fertile environment for all types of crowdfunding in South Africa, and if nurtured correctly, will ultimately also assist the efforts of NGOs, projects, and individuals searching for new donors or alternative sources of funding.

According to the Global Digital Yearbook for 2019, 4.38 billion people or 57% of the global population is now connected to the Internet, with almost 50% active on social media. South Africa has an overall internet penetration rate of 54%, representing just over 31 million people in the country, of which 28.99 million are mobile internet users. Furthermore, 40% of the population (23 million people) is active on social media, of which 22 million are mobile social media users.

Although the cost of Internet access in South Africa is the highest among all leading African economies, with a population of 58 million people and given the existing and expected future Internet and mobile penetration rates, the potential for crowdfunding to leverage this growth in support of NGOs and projects is significant.

In addition, South Africa is a nation of givers. Despite challenging economic conditions, and the World Bank naming South Africa the most unequal country in the world, a culture of giving remains deeply embedded in our society. According to the South Africa Giving 2019 report, 80% of South Africans donated money to an NGO or religious organisation or sponsored someone in 2018, with the majority of donations going to helping the poor (55%), while two thirds (66%) have volunteered during this period. The majority of those surveyed believe NGOs have had a positive impact on their local communities, on South Africa as a whole, and internationally.

Cash is overwhelmingly the most common method of donation for South African donors (73%), but interestingly, 27% of respondents are giving online using a bank/credit card.

This combination of high Internet and mobile penetration rates, and high levels of individual giving in South Africa, challenges NGOs, fundraisers, and other development stakeholders to fully embrace and maximise the opportunities presented by crowdfunding and a fast-changing digital world.

Ultimately, crowdfunding entails much more than listing an NGO or project on an online platform. It is also vital for NGOs not to view crowdfunding as a stand-alone activity or to replace existing fundraising activities, but to approach it as an integral part of their overall fundraising strategy. There are no guarantees for fundraising success, but crowdfunding is an essential mechanism for NGOs to reach new audiences, stimulate interest in their work, provide feedback to supporters, and secure the support required to sustain their work.

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The following 13 crowdfunding platforms and programmes support NGOs in South Africa (in alphabetical order):

1. BackaBuddy 

BackaBuddy is an online fundraising platform that has been designed to help individuals raise funds for the causes they are passionate about. It was founded in 2007 by the late Allan Beuthin. BackaBuddy’s vision is to activate communities of people around causes they believe in, building more economically resilient societies that care for their own with empathy for others in need. It believes in the power of individual philanthropy and peer-to-peer giving through technology. On BackaBuddy, individuals (“Cause Champions”) can raise funds to support a cause or NGO of their choice by participating in various sporting events, pledging their birthday or climbing a mountain. Individuals are also able to fundraise for a variety of personal needs for themselves or a loved one. The most popular campaigns on BackaBuddy are those for student fees, medical fees, sporting tours or carrying out a random act of kindness. Since inception, more than R132 million has been raised for 10 797 NGOs and causes, showcasing the generosity of South Africans and the adoption of crowdfunding as a powerful tool for alternative financing. Over 167 891 donors, both locally and abroad, have supported campaigns on the platform. Creating a crowdfunding page or registering a cause is free, while BackaBuddy charges an administration fee of 5% on all funds raised through the platform.

2. Brownie Points 

Brownie Points is an online platform and network that empowers, tracks and celebrates good deeds. Established in 2015, it enables everyone to become a changemaker by supporting and sharing causes they are passionate about, while maximising awareness, collaboration, engagement and insights for NGOs, companies and activism groups. The platform covers more than 500 NGOs, and facilitates volunteering and in-kind donations. An online donations feature will be introduced in 2020 to facilitate all types of giving. However, the platform has already facilitated over R300 000 in donations. NGOs register directly with their preferred payment provider, and Brownie Points then ingrates the payment mechanism with their account. Brownie Points do not charge any transaction or administrative fees per donation. When the new online donations feature is introduced, a monthly or annual subscription will be charged for a premium package that also enables automated section 18A certificates, while the free package will include the donations feature.

3. Candystick

Candystick was established in early 2015, and it aims to improve the experience of group gifting in South Africa. The platform has already facilitated many successful crowdfunding efforts for projects and NGOs in South Africa. Candystick charges R5 per donation and a withdrawal fee of 5.5% on the amount raised.

4. Click ‘n Donate 

Click ‘n Donate is a fundraising platform that was launched in August 2017. It facilitates donations for NPOs, NGOs and social causes in South Africa, and ultimately, will extend its services to other parts of the world. Click ‘n Donate connects campaigns and stories to people, and allows everyone to be a philanthropist, irrespective of who they are or where they are situated in the world or the size of their donation. Pay-outs to beneficiaries are done weekly. Click ‘n Donate charges a publishing fee of R369 to upload a campaign on the platform which they deduct from the donations received and only bills if the campaign is successful in raising funds, and an administrative fee of 5% on the donations received.

5. Different.org

Different.org is an online crowdfunding platform that funds NGOs in South Africa. It was established in March 2015 and is owned and operated by Different Life (Pty) Ltd, a life insurance company. The Differenet.org business model gives policyholders the option to allocate their first payment out of twelve annual payments to an NGO of their choice via the platform. 100% of donations go to the NGO beneficiaries and the Different Group covers all transaction costs. A total of more than R14 million has already been donated to 62 NGOs by more than 17 000 Different.org members.

6. Doit4Charity

Doit4Charity was established in 2009 and provides a platform for anyone, anywhere in the world, to raise funds for a South African NGO that is registered on the site. Since 2017 individuals can also use the platform to raise funds for personal projects such as medical bills. More than R4.7 million has been raised by 770 individuals from 15 000 donors for 225 beneficiaries in South Africa. There is no charge for NGOs or fundraisers to use the platform, but Doit4Charity charges a 10% administrative fee on the total value of all donations made via the platform. This fee is deducted before the balance is paid to beneficiaries, and includes all bank and credit card settlement fees.

7. Feenix 

Feenix was launched in June 2017 as a response to the #FeesMustFall movement that spread across university campuses in South Africa during 2015 and 2016. Feenix – the name is a potmanteau of fees and the Afrikaans word “niks” – is a crowdfunding platform that connects communities; providing a tool for students to formalise their fundraising efforts and a channel for funders to find students they wish to support. To date, 1009 students from 24 public universities have received a total of R29 602 340.27 from 2351 individual and corporate donors. Feenix is a Public Benefit Organisation, and in order to keep their operations sustainable, 5% of each donation made is used to cover its administrative cost. The 5% administrative cost is paid by the funder, not the student.

8. forgood

forgood is a social impact marketplace that connects more than 400 verified NGOs and social causes in South Africa to citizens and corporates. It enables South Africans to volunteer time and skills, donate goods and money, and create personalised offers that are matched to NGOs near them. Forgood also provides 15 South African corporates (25 000 employees registered so far) with technology to create, manage, scale, and measure their employee volunteering programmes. In the past five years, forgood has facilitated almost 30 000 connections between people and causes in South Africa. The vast majority of these have been skills-based giving experiences, ranging from mentoring to web design and from executive coaching to tutoring maths and painting educational murals. The platform is free for NGOs and volunteers. NGOs only pay a 6% fee on any money raised, which is invoiced quarterly.

9. GivenGain 

GivenGain is an online fundraising platform that enables charities (NGOs, NPOs, trusts, foundations, etc.) to receive donations in multiple currencies, wherever they are. It supports the work of 3 100 registered charities worldwide, including 2 500 from South Africa, fundraisers, donors from 195 countries, and event organisers on five continents. Charities create campaign pages and invite their supporters to donate or fundraise, individual fundraisers create fundraising projects for their chosen charity and invite friends to support and share it, and donors all over the world donate to fundraising projects and charities of their choice. More than 19 000 fundraising projects have been created on GivenGain since inception. Various sports events use GivenGain to add a charity angle to their events and thereby make them more meaningful for participants. All donations made to projects listed on GivenGain are managed by the GivenGain Foundation in Switzerland, which was established in 2001 in South Africa, and today also operates in Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Canada. Transaction fees are charged at 5% of the donation value plus a processing fee to cover bank, credit card, and other associated costs.

10. Jumpstarter

Jumpstarter is a rewards-based and award-winning crowdfunding platform that was established in 2015. It supports the creative projects of individuals, NGOs and businesses, and is powered by a unique 100%-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands. Everything listed on Jumpstarter must be a project with a clear goal, such as producing an album, a book or a work of art. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be created as a result. A project creator sets the project’s funding goal, donation rewards, and deadline. If people like the project, they can donate money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal in an allocated timeframe, the project creator is paid out. Jumpstarter also received a grant from Google and use of their premium tools which enables it to provide projects a large visible listing on Google Ads and YouTube, at no cost. Jumpstarter already facilitated donations of more than R100 000 for NGOs and social causes, in addition to the support generated for all other projects. It charges no fees per donation, but a processing fee of 1-3% when payouts are done to project creators.

11. MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet

MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet is a community fundraising programme. It was established in 1997 and rolled out nationally in 2003. It supports personalised giving and people can choose up to three beneficiaries (schools, social causes, etc.). Every time they shop at a participating partner, a % of the transaction value is donated by the partner on their behalf, at no additional cost. MySchool focuses on education, MyVillage on social causes, and MyPlanet on the environment and animals. More than 8 000 schools and NGOs currently benefit from this programme, and to date, R655 million has been paid out to beneficiaries. Woolworths is the biggest contributor, while other partners include Engen, loot.co.za, Bidvest Waltons and many other local partners. It been acknowledge as a sustainable and impactful fundraising programme, both in South Africa and internationally, and is based on the principles of together we can make a sustainable impact. Apart from the direct funds raised by the programme for chosen beneficiaries, it has also created opportunities to directly invest in early childhood development by supporting 18 centres across the country, teacher bursaries for 20 students, leadership and principal development, and caring for animals both domestic and wild. The MyPlanet Rhino Fund has also made investments in high impact and sustainable conservation projects.

12. Pledge-a-Portion  

Pledge-a-Portion is a crowdfunding platform that allows people to take a pledge by browsing through the NGOs, causes, schools, and projects listed on the site and regularly contributing through a secure online payment system. Established in 2010, Pledge-a-Portion spearheaded the “embedded giving” concept in which a percentage of the purchase price of a product or service goes to an NGO, while it also assists various NGOs and causes with a range of other fundraising initiatives. More than 20 NGOs have already benefitted from the platform. Pledge-a-Portion charges an administration fee of 5% on all funds raised through the platform.

13. WeBenefit 

WeBenefit helps schools and NPOs to save and raise money. Working with a network of trusted partners and suppliers, it offers a range of cost-saving procurement solutions that can be implemented to reduce overheads, and also to raise funds. WeBenefit Schools, which was founded in 2016, supports schools and NPOs to cost-save on products and services such as onsite printing, ICT solutions, stationery, and consumables. By aggregating the scale of multiple schools and NPOs, it is in a position to negotiate better pricing, terms, and service levels for beneficiaries. WeBenefit Business was created in 2019 as a mechanism to raise funds for beneficiaries. It serves small and medium enterprises and corporate customers with the same range of procurement solutions, but every transaction also generates a financial contribution to a nominated school or NPO. This arrangement enables businesses to access top procurement solutions at a competitive price, procure through a BBBEE 2 rated company, and support their beneficiaries through their normal procurement spend. There is no fee or cost to the beneficiaries or businesses to be part of WeBenefit. To date, 193 beneficiaries have benefited from transactions with 872 unique customers.

David Barnard is a development consultant with extensive experience in NGO, philanthropy and ICT issues in Africa.

Call for Applications to the Community Chest Impumelelo Social Innovations Awards Programme (CCISIA)

The CCISIA programme is a leading awards programme that identifies, recognises and awards socially innovative initiatives in Africa. Through thought leadership, mentorship, monitoring, evaluation and learning, strategic investment and pragmatic master classes, we are building an African-led, global social innovation movement.

This is an invitation to pre-apply to the awards programme. This year, we invite applicants from across South Africa to present innovative projects in various developmental sectors including, but not limited to; health, education, infrastructure and housing, income generation, social entrepreneurship, environment and conservation, arts and culture, and community development. Those who are deemed compliant in terms of the Community Chest due diligence process will be invited to apply for the programme and go on to be evaluated further. Successful applicants will be exposed to a rigorous and independent evaluation and adjudication process, culminating in the CCISIA Awards Ceremony.

Award winners can benefit from exclusive networking opportunities with funders and project partners. The programme regularly submits the work of its award winners to the UN Public Service Awards and the Dubai International Awards for Best Practice, and 21 of our projects have won international prestigious awards. All applicants will also have the opportunity to participate in one or more of Community Chest’s existing programmes, focused on organisational capacitation and project incubation.

The Pre-Applications process closes on Tuesday 30 April 2019 at 16H00 and the CCISIA Awards are held on the 10th November 2019 in Cape Town.

Community Chest invites all interested organisations to complete the online application form by completing this Pre- Application Form

For more info email awards@comchest.org.za or contact Colleen Brocker tel: 021 487 1500.

Successful and unsuccessful applicants will be notified via email on Tuesday 7 May 2019.

For more about Community Chest of the Western Cape, refer to www.comchest.org.za

To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/group/home-page/pressreleases

Many South Africans are using their participation in sporting activities from running marathons to climbing mountains to raise awareness and funds for social causes and to make a difference in society. Supported by the reach and popularity of social media as well as crowdfunding platforms, these initiatives have the increased potential to influence meaningful change.

Combining my passion for extreme desert running with philanthropy and raising awareness for social causes, I will be running 250 kilometres as part of the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) from 20-26 October 2018 to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH). The race takes place in the Kalahari Desert in the proximity of the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River.

Inspired by Madiba’s love for children, and built in honour of his legacy, NMCH is a world-class tertiary specialist referral paediatric hospital based in Parktown, Johannesburg. The 200-bed facility is only the second dedicated children’s hospital in Southern Africa and admitted its first patients in June 2017.

NMCH has already treated over 1 000 children in need of surgical and life-saving interventions as a result of complex illnesses and continues to phase in operations. The hospital is committed to rendering exceptional service to all children of Southern Africa and no child, regardless of socio-economic circumstances, who is appropriately referred to the facility is turned away.

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I have always loved sport – as a participant and fan – and in 2010 I discovered the crazy sport of desert running.

There is something unique to running self-supported and in extreme conditions in remote corners of the world such as the Sahara, Gobi, Atacama, and Antarctica, covering distances of a marathon or more on four or five consecutive days. It is a tough and often painful experience but making it to the finish line is a fantastic feeling and deeply satisfying.

However, my participation in these races has always been about more than just overcoming the physical and mental challenges associated with these events.  I have worked with NGOs and other entities involved with development and social justice efforts in Africa for the past 25 years. My desert running adventures therefore provide me with an opportunity to support organisations of interest to me and to make a difference.

I have used my desert runs in the recent past to support the work of organisations such as the ONE Campaign in Africa, Greenpeace Africa, The Sunflower Fund and the END Fund, covering a diverse range of issues such as poverty, climate change, leukaemia and the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

South Africa boasts thousands of “charity champions” – people such as Saray Khumalo, Dean Wight and Andrew Patterson, to name a few, with incredible stories of endurance, sacrifice and commitment to helping others and doing good.

But not everyone can or has to run a marathon or climb a mountain to support a good cause or make a difference in society. By developing an interest in the issues facing our local communities, and finding out which organisations are active around us, it becomes easier to determine who or what requires support and where to best channel our efforts.

As former president Mandela once said, “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

As part of my participation in the KAEM, and in support of Madiba’s legacy, I aim to raise R250 000 for NMCH to enable more children to benefit from the hospital.

It only requires 2 500 people to donate a minimum of R100 each to reach this target, and I’m challenging all South Africans to support this important campaign and the work of NMCH.

As a public benefit organisation, the hospital has a unique funding model as it only receives operational funding from the government to treat public patients and independently fundraises to support its capital expenses. As a result, it requires ongoing public support to expand and sustain its services.

Running 250 kilometres through the Kalahari Desert in extreme heat and sand will be a tough challenge, but I’m inspired by this cause and the belief that together we can achieve this target. Nothing will give me greater pleasure than honouring Madiba’s legacy and centennial birthday in this manner.

My fundraising campaign will run from 10 October to 27 November 2018, to coincide with Giving Tuesday, an annual global initiative aimed at encouraging social giving.

Click here to make a donation and follow my campaign on social media via #DesertRun4NMCH.

David Barnard is the first African to have completed a multi-stage desert race on all seven continents. He boasts an extensive background in civil society and worked on development programmes across Africa.

When asked what my motivation is for participating in extreme desert running events since 2010, my answer is two-fold. Yes, there is the personal challenge and satisfaction of completing these races. But the main reason for my participation is to raise money, support and awareness for NGOs and social causes at the forefront of addressing Africa’s development challenges.

My next desert race is the six-day, 250km Fire and Ice Ultra from 27 August – 1 September 2018 in Iceland. It will be my tenth desert race, and if successful, I will become the first African, and one of only a small group of people, to complete a multi-stage desert race on all seven continents.

But beyond achieving a special running milestone, my participation in the Fire and Ice Ultra is also another opportunity to support organisations making a difference in Africa.

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Given my involvement with various African NGOs over the past 25 years, both professionally and through my desert running efforts, I am dedicating my participation in this race not to a single cause or organisation, but to the African NGO sector in general.

It is an opportunity to celebrate NGOs’ unique contributions across the continent, generate support and awareness for their work, and reflect on the state of the sector.

As of today, for the next 50 days until the start of the race on 27 August 2018, I will implement the #NGOs4Africa Campaign which will consist of the following components:

  • Publishing profiles of 50 African NGOs that I have admired, supported or worked with over the years;
  • Publishing 20 guest articles by NGO leaders and experts about critical challenges and opportunities facing NGOs in Africa;
  • Publishing 15 articles about people using sport to raise awareness and support for good causes in Africa;
  • Publishing regular updates about my training and preparations for the race, including updates about my campaign.

I will publish all these profiles and articles on my blog – https://desert2desert4socialcauses.com – and other online platforms, and promote them via social media (#NGOs4Africa). I will also participate in various media interviews (e.g., television, radio, print, etc.) in support of the objectives of the campaign.

I hope the various NGO profiles and articles will provide the followers of the #NGOs4Africa Campaign, and the general public, with the necessary context and insights to better understand and appreciate the work of NGOs in Africa.

The following paragraph, which I wrote in October 2010 after completing my first desert race, the 250km Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM), captures my personal experience and views on the connection between running a gruelling desert race and working in the NGO sector:

“Preparing for the KAEM and running the race is very much like managing an NGO in South Africa and many other developing country contexts. It is often a very demanding, lonely, frustrating position, with long hours and much time away from home and family. There is always more to do than what time and resources allow for; the challenges at hand are always more difficult and complicated than expected; there are no short-cuts for success; and the funding and support environment is challenging and unpredictable. But the people who work in this sector understand values and characteristics of integrity, determination and service, and the belief that only hard work and dedication will bring about change and improvement in the lives of our people. These are the reasons why we work in the NGO sector, and why NGOs are at the forefront of the fight for social justice, while at the same time providing much needed social services to millions of South Africans.” 

These sentiments inspire me to continue using my participation in desert races for generating awareness and support for African NGOs.

I invite you to follow my #NGOs4Africa Campaign and share information in this regard in your networks.

David Barnard
9 July 2018

Dear Comedians,
 
I reflect on some comedy where you unashamedly ‘go to town’ literally poking fun at the disability sector and its limitations with particular reference to our sexuality. That your audience took no notice of your blatant insult to the disability community and instead exploded in roars of laughter exposes stereotypes that are permanently visited on people with disabilities, some of whom are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces, etc. of able-bodied persons. Question is: how did we get to this point?
 
In case you were not aware, identity can be structured upon shared social experience; that there are fixed identities of persons with disabilities; and that the self plays a significant role in the formation of identity. However, it is important for you to understand the rhetoric versus practical realities in order to assess what can free persons with disabilities from fixed identities that have been enforced overtime by regulatory regimes embodied in cultural and societal prejudices.
 
As would be adequately articulated below in tandem with the gist of this letter, a person with disability has the capability of constructing a self-identity not constituted in impairment but rather independent of it, and of accepting impairment as a reality that he or she lives with without losing a sense of self. Therefore, disability in a socio-cultural context can be defined as a barrier to participation of people with impairments or chronic illnesses arising from an interaction of the impairment or illness with discriminatory attitudes, cultures, policies or institutional practices.
 
The traditional view of disability often focuses on the individual, highlighting incapacities or failings, a defect, or impairment. This narrow focus creates obstacles to participation on equal terms since an individual who seems to lack certain capacities may not be able to attain autonomy.
 
Society often does not take into account the ways in which impairment is part of humanity. Instead, it views the effects of impairment as obstacles. This emanates from the interaction between persons with disabilities and society. Society desires that a person with a disability fit into societal structures, rather than structures fitting into the person's with disability needs.
 
You will recall that from time to time contemporary society has regarded impairment as a handicap. In essence, the idea of a ‘handicap’ is a form of discrimination that has social origins. This creates disadvantages that persons with disabilities experience not necessarily as emanating from some biological determination but rather from socially, culturally, economically, and politically constructed obstacles.
 
Disability therefore becomes equivalent to social oppression within which government policies, state authorities, and institutions (including the arts) are all key factors in the formation of structures that oppress persons with disabilities.
 
The solution, however, is to give persons with disabilities citizenship rights and change society's material structure, since the oppressive mechanisms that transform impairments to disabilities are enhanced by structures that are embedded in ideas and attitudes of non-disabled persons.
 
The universal construct of the self is the product of the fact that every human being is aware of his individuality. It is a premise that human beings are consciously aware of their own lives and it is through reflexivity that we become aware of a consciously constructed self.
 
Self is seen as a universal human property, something that we must all possess and a characteristic that we must all develop. Self in this context enables us to reflect on who we are, whom we choose to identify with, and what we choose to do as matters of choice, not compulsion.
 
Group membership in this kind of reflection is no longer synonymous with identity formation. We are able to choose our identity and ignore and even reject identities fostered on us as a result of ascribed characteristics. We do all these by creation of narratives about the self which, provided we can sustain these narratives and work to maintain our sense of self.
 
As a person with a disability, I challenge the social construction of what is regarded as normal and a normal body and embrace the difference of a body with impairment as what is normal or not. Self-identity hence becomes a product of a conscious action that questions identity dominated by social ascription.
 
That my identity and sexuality therefore becomes the subject of hilarious satire (at least within your limited scope) thus exhibits so profoundly as a manifestation of deep-rooted prejudices that are visited upon the disability sector. It might be useful to remind you that in concert with sentiments expressed above, disability is not a choice but an occurrence or an ensemble of a number of forces at play, most of which unpalatable.
 
Challenging social systems, in which persons with disabilities are subordinated through relations that are contradictory to their own views of self, helps persons with disabilities to create self-identities that are far removed from biomedical models that present disability as tragedy. Furthermore, the self-identity created does not necessarily show off difference; is it not about celebrating difference or diversity, or taking pride in identity through labelling, but about defining disability in its own terms, under its own terms of reference.
 
In its 2011 Profile of Disability in South Africa, Statistics South Africa records that the degree of difficulty (disability) measure showed that females had the highest percentage of persons experiencing mild and severe difficulties across all types of difficulties except for communication, where both males and females had the same proportion of persons who had experienced mild difficulties. The population group profile shows that black Africans had the highest proportion of persons with disabilities (7.8 percent), followed by the white population group (6.5 percent). No variations were observed among the coloured and Indian/Asian population groups.
 
There is low labour market absorption of persons with disabilities. The degree of difficulty is related to economic participation, with increased difficulty being associated with a decrease in labour market participation. In five of the six functional domains, employment levels were highest among persons with no difficulty and lowest among persons with severe difficulties across the provinces.
 
Statistics South Africa further notes that the low representation of persons with disabilities in the work place leaves a number of questions unanswered: is it non-compliance, prejudice or insufficient skills, or a combination of factors including environmental obstacles, misconceptions and prejudice about capabilities of persons with disabilities to perform certain jobs remain one of the major obstacles to employment opportunities and their exclusion from opportunities for promotion in their careers.
 
The exclusion of persons with disabilities from work imposes a financial burden on their families, and often translates into impoverishment of individuals and households of persons with disabilities, particularly those in under-resourced communities.
 
Rights are formulated to protect aspects of human dignity. All human beings need rights to survive hard times. Despite the noble function that rights are expected to perform in human life, violation of the same rights is experienced from all directions. Most often the violation becomes so legitimate that the rights of persons with disabilities are seen as privileges and are thus not given adequate recognition.
 
Disability is both a human rights and social issue. Thus legitimising disability for the purpose of acknowledging capabilities and limitations becomes vital. Self-identity is more tested in this aspect because unless one is very sure of one's self and has formulated an adequate self-concept, the subject may not be sure of his or her own capabilities and limitations; they may be at a loss as to the relation between the extent of personal rights and dysfunctions. Consequences might include misconstruing rights for privileges and seeking a privilege as a right. A true positive identity should be able to distinguish the two and use the same to fight winning battles.
 
As persons with disability, we are able to choose our identity and ignore and even reject identities forced on us as a result of ascribed characteristics.
 
We do this by creation of narratives about the self, and provided we can sustain these narratives we are able to maintain our sense of self. Through this approach, the problems associated with conflating identities into essential, fixed, pre-ordained, singular categories can be avoided, such as the homogenisation of persons with disabilities into a singular group or the ascription of a single identity. As persons with disability, we are entitled to enjoyment of human rights and acquisition of dignity through these rights.
 
Developing strong self-identity and a positive self-concept empowered us to such an extent that fighting for our rights emanates from a clear understanding of the self, first as persons and secondly as members of a group of persons in similar circumstances. The actualisation of the self-concept would also enable us to fight for individual rights apart from group rights.
 
Moreover, group membership in this kind of understanding does not affect our self-identity formation. It has been and will hopefully continue to be a powerful and creative force, but as persons with disabilities, will need self-identity first and foremost to become a part and parcel of the wider group or movement. Special education, legislation, the media, and the Human Rights Commission can become spearheads in mobilising changes in attitudes and stereotypes that are so pervasive.
 
On your favourite subject of sex, you may be interested to know that research has shown that persons with disabilities may be denied the right to establish relationships and could also be forced into unwanted marriages, where they may be treated more as housekeepers or objects of abuse than as a member of the family. In many societies, social discrimination and stigma make it hard for young persons with disabilities to marry, particularly girls.
 
Considered in some societies as less eligible marriage partners, women with disabilities are more likely to live in a series of unstable relationships, and thus have fewer legal, social and economic options should these relationships not work out.
 
Furthermore, women with disabilities are not recognised as being ‘women’ enough to bear children, marry or keep the domestic fires burning. They are seldom afforded an opportunity to be educated, as it is believed that one day they will find a man who will take care of them, even though they are not marriage material. As women, they are often not in control of their own sexuality and reproductive rights. In many situations, health professionals and to an extent their family members decide if they may have children or not. According to research, women with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
 
Certain sex-related cultural beliefs and behaviour practices place women with disabilities at higher risk of HIV infection. 'Virginity Cleansing', a practice where an HIV infected person has sex with a virgin in the belief that they would be cured of the infection has led to the rape of many persons with disabilities especially mentally challenged women and babies. They become victims of this practice as it is believed they are virgins and in most instances cannot protect themselves from such attacks.
 
While you are contemplating the above, you may want to refurbish your blatant disregard for the disability sector, which is obviously borne out of ignorance and utter disrespect for it.  We are not eager to be reminded of our vulnerability, and certainly not available to be afforded the unwelcome suit of satirical ridicule.
 
Despite obtaining challenges, we do find space to laugh at ourselves through measured reflections of our solitude circumstances. However, we have no room to be romanced by insults hurled our way without exculpation in the name of satire: the proverbial tale of two poles does not meet with our conscious and considered approval.
An opportunity is thus presented to you to reflect. Seriously reflect on: Why Should Satire Romance the Disability Sector.
 
- Sipho Edwin Rihlamvu (Mobile: 079 045 1630, Email: simphiwecomms@hotmail.com) is Managing Director at Simphiwe Communications.

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