Blog

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.

Have you ever had to sit in front of your Board Members and justify the use of Social Media Marketing in your Organisation's overall Marketing Strategy?

I know how difficult it can be to quantify the time and dedication Social Media requires, be that in the form of attending Workshops to gain more skills, or the time spent online engaging with various Audiences. I usually use the below example to help explain why Social Media is one of the best tools to use as a Nonprofit:

"Imagine if I asked you to book (and pay for) a floor space at a busy shopping centre during Christmas Time with a table and sign set up to give out samples/phamplets of your product/organisation. Would you expect the foot traffic to see your product? Would you expect people to take the free samples? Would you expect them to give you feedback on the sample like, 'Yes I  love it;  No I cannot afford this right now etc.' Of course you would because you have paid for that floor space during peak traffic and you have given an offer most people cannot refuse. Now, amplify the above scenario exponentially. THAT is what Social Media Marketing is."

Other reasons include: 

  • It's free - the platforms are free to sign up to and use. That means that EVERYBODY uses them because who doesn't love a free service, right? What is NOT free however is the content that needs to be strategically posted within the platform from a marketing point of view. This is where a Social Media Agency or Consultant steps in.
  • It's user friendly
  • It allows you to further understand your audience
  • It helps you keep a competitive edge
  • It increases and helps maintains your customer service levels
  • It allows you to showcase your achievements
  • It's interactive by allowing you to gain real time feedback on your products / services
  • It allows you to be unique
  • It allows you to connect with a Global Market

Lastly, imagine hundreds, if not thousands, of people following YOUR Organisation Page, engaging with YOUR Brand and giving feedback on YOUR topics. Is that not the ideal place for all Nonprofit Organisations to be?

For more information on how I can help your Organisation achieve success on Social Media, please contact me on sam@phambano.org.za or visit our Technology Development Centre: www.phambano.org.za

Children are the future of our society and those less fortunate deserve the same opportunities as others. This is the same philosophy on which the non-profit organization Salaam Baalak Trust works. Counted as one of the most prestigious NGOs in India, the Salaam Baalak Trust is working towards restoring the dignity of children born on the streets and improving their lives by providing food, security, health and education.

Salaam Baalak Trust was established twenty-eight years ago in December, 1988 with donations from the movie Salaam Bombay. The trust now protects children from the ruthless underbelly of Delhi and provides them vocational training to help them live a meaningful life.  Without any division on the basis of caste, religion or gender, these are the areas in which the trust is making giant strides to alleviate children from poverty in the streets.

Children Homes

A life on the streets can have a major emotional impact on a child and therefore the Salaam Baalak Trust ensures rehabilitation and restoration of children as soon as they separate from their families. This is done through their Contact Point and Community Contact Point programs. This, however, is not possible in all the cases and therefore the children are encouraged to join a full-care residential centre after registering through the Child Welfare Committee.

The complete lifecycle of the Children Homes programme is as follows:

  • Salaam Baalak Trust appoints contact points throughout the city, especially at railway stations and crowded places in order to identify children who have just arrived in the city and might be vulnerable to bad elements in the society;
  • The second step in the programme is to counsel and help the street children reunite with their families;
  • In case it’s not feasible to trace back their families, the trust goes ahead and introduces the children to older children to help develop a sense of common identity and empathy between them. This helps in making sure that the children frequently visit the contact points;
  • Other facilities such as nutrition, clothing, education (formal or open schools) and medical support is provided to the children;
  • Introduction to drug addiction programmes is done in case the child is hooked on to bad substances;
  • Recreational facilities are provided such as sports (indoors and outdoors), music, art and craft;
  • Child rights awareness programmes are run and efforts are made to help the children reunite with their families;

Apart from 19 contact points and 6 full care residential centers, the Salaam Baalak Trust also runs Akanksha, a children outreach programme in slums.

Health Protection

Basic health facilities are a necessity that every human being deserves. The children, prone to severe infections and diseases, need basic healthcare in order to grow. The trust, therefore, provides individual health cards for the children. Medical check-ups are also done at regular intervals. To compliment basic healthcare, hot-cooked meals are provided at residential centers and contact points. Hepatitis-B and tetanus vaccinations are done at regular intervals for children in need.

A special emphasis is also given to Mental Health, especially because the children living in the streets go through a lot of stress and anxiety.  Under this programme, started in 2003, children can approach their counselor without the fear of being judged and can vent out their anger and insecurities within a safe space.

Education and Social Inclusion

With a special focus on need based solutions, the Salaam Baalak Trust places education as a high priority area for the underprivileged children. Many schemes of education, both formal and informal are employed by the trust to help the children become informed and responsible citizens of our society. Here are some of the programmes offered by the trust:

  • National Institute of Open Schooling
  • Formal Education
  • Non-Formal Education
  • Bridge Education/Course

Recreation

The Salaam Baalak Trust believes in curing the malice in the life of street children with the help of performing arts. It is not only a medium to express themselves but also an opportunity to prove that they are good at something in life. Numerous case studies have proven that not only do the creative arts help instill a sense of purpose for many of these children but also helps them in making friends and carving a path for, and of their own.

The recreation activities therefore include street plays, annual dance, pottery and theatre. With such avenues and opportunities for street children, the Salaam Baalak Trust continues to do pioneering work in this area.

To donate and express your support for the wonderful work being done by the Salaam Baalak Trust, Visit here. http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com

The recent protests which have rocked the Southern parts of Johannesburg, more specifically the Coloured townships of Eldorado Park and Ennerdale, should not be looked at in isolation. The organisation and mobilisation of this largely unemployed, marginalised, and erased people have been a recurring trend across Johannesburg, from Reiger Park to Westbury. They pertain primarily to two matters, a “housing” crisis and the issue of criminality.

“Housing” was central to at least three protests in three months. It is an issue which goes largely overlooked by Coloured people themselves. Perhaps more concerning than this is the disregard by those who perceive the struggles of this group of people as a matter of lesser urgency.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that Coloured people create informal settlements in their backyards rather than establish informal settlements like their Black counterparts; giving the impression of a slightly better environment, as capital seems to circulate between landlord and tenant. But nobody questions the amount that is actually transacted (if at all) between these two parties, let alone the social implications of four families sharing a Verwoerdian “plot” of land.

One would be wilfully ignorant to believe that such a small space for movement could possibly facilitate a healthy childhood development. Imagine a child growing up next to a tavern (a large part of township economy, particularly where the genetic footprint of the Dop System exists) surrounded by unemployment and desperation on both ends of the gender spectrum. This child is fatherless and without any alternative representation of self to aspire towards. What are the chances that this child will develop a moral reasoning stable enough to enable the necessary cognitive skills which would lead to a critical environmental awareness?

This same child then (maybe) goes to school where she/he has no Mandela, Sobukwe, or Kathrada to identify with; where stereotypes are constantly reinforced by Koos Bekker through KykNet funding literature pertaining to gangsterism for his own entertainment. It is within these same spaces that Heritage Day for most middle-class Coloured children attending quintile 3-5 schools (as part of the smallest minority) is just a reminder that she/he has no identity. To what extent does one expect this child to pursue learning if she/he has no positive representation of her/himself? I have yet to come across a statement or explanation from the Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education pertaining to the singularly retarded growth rate and advancement of Coloured academia in a country that fosters such a great culture of learning inclusive of all racial groups, except Coloured people.

It could be that these townships are protesting because Coloured children are exposed to gangsterism and structural violence through exclusion from the time they are old enough to walk through the streets. Biko remarked that township life is enough to kill us, and the statistics do not lie. Violence has no doubt shaped masculinity where the Nommer thrives, be it Mitchell’s Plein or Nyanga, but nowhere else has it filled a vacuum of culture as in the Coloured community. Men kill each other over drugs, women, and “turf”. Yards and flats are simply not big enough for free movement, so they occupy corners. They do not own an identity but might get murdered because somebody feels like he owns his girlfriend since she lives in the street that he controls.

Legislation never worked in our favour; we can neither turn to the private nor government sector. Even if we do, we “sell out” by surrendering beings, right down to our accents for the purpose of survival to people who would rather try our culture on to make a fashion statement (say hi to Die Antwoord) or a joke (hello hi Michael Costa). There is less shame and humiliation in crime in this regard. We have been desensitised to violence to the extent that we do our looting topless, in strap sandals, get shot in the neck, and call it “lekker”.

Along these lines of dispossession, the rage in Coloured people, which this country finds hilarious, has been gaining momentum for centuries. Why the delay? Primarily, the children of slavery do not know what they are owed. They are excluded from the syllabus, teachers’ pedagogy, and curriculum; so why would they go to school? Even if they do, when exactly are they going to learn about themselves in the same economic, social, and legalistic light that their Black peers have the opportunity to? Colouredness has been defined by its body being sold for capital since it was in shackles and chains. What is this group of people owed exactly?

The Master and Servant’s Ordinance (later Act) was first perfected on Coloured slaves, before the Great Trek, and, as such, the Native Land Act of 1913 does not offer sufficient explanation on the matter of land. Moreover, upon speculation of the first form of the Group Areas Act in the first quarter of the 1800s by Adam Tas, the migratory flows of “free blacks” (former slaves) who became land owners after slavery’s abolition, led to the eventual establishment, in one instance, of Adam Kok’s Griqua state which had its own economy and infrastructure. It is simply an epistemic inconsistency and academically lazy not to look further back than the day, as Plaatje stated, “the Black man woke up a pariah in his own land”.

 

It is through this long-winded alienation of a people from their history, identity, family, culture and, ultimately, their land that one completely simplifies the land debate in South Africa to fit a narrative as clear-cut as Black and White. What will happen to South Africa when Coloured people realise that our issue is not “housing”, our issue is imposed landlessness, crime and alcoholism? The oppressed imitates the oppressor; that is what the Coon Carnival and the con of the skollie is rooted in. Although we are laughing, it is not with you. Who is the joke really on if you shot a man in his neck and he called it “lekker”? Why are you laughing?

At the heart of the world’s mortality rate, high blood pressure reels a worrying trend not only among the elderly, as it is often assumed, but shockingly, research suggests that there has been an increase among children, adolescents and young adults. While the globe marked World Hypertension Day, 17 May 2017 under the theme ‘’Know your numbers,’’ it is with sadness that in developing countries and low-income areas the rate among the youth is swelling.

Hypertension, according to the World Health Organisation is an increase in blood pressure, wherein the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure, putting them under increased stress. Each time the heart beats; it pumps blood into the vessels, which carry the blood throughout the body. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) as it is pumped by the heart. The higher the pressure, the harder the heart has to pump.

The normal blood pressure of an adult is 120/80 mmHg and anything higher than that will certainly lead to the early stages of hypertension. Although, it must be noted that low blood pressure (hypotension) can alter dire consequences for one,  which may result in life-threatening conditions such as a weak and rapid pulse, rapid and shallow breathing, cold, and clammy. Read more about low blood pressure here

South Africa is among the world's most affected countries by hypertension placed fifth (5), making it the second most affected in Africa just below Botswana according to World Health Rankings.  Much of this is directly linked to social and behavioural factors. These contributing factors have adverse effects and encourage the rapid rise of hypertension among the youth. More than 90% of youths who are hypertensive suffer from primary hypertension,  a condition that is genetically connected and as a result of unhealthy diet, overweight and stress.

Much of the aforementioned have become too familiar in South African, wherewith studies warn of a rising number of obese children who in most cases grow to be hypertensive. Although government’s intervention is heading in the right direction, thus the legislation of salt on informing that diets must not exceed 5 grams of salt intake per day. However, consumer behaviour, change in societies and the culture of modernisation are not all too easy on the situation. Socio patterns such as alcohol abuse, smoking,  lack of physical exercise and poor diet are among the risk factors for the development of hypertension.

While South Africa is leading the fight among low-income countries to reduce salt intake, it is inevitable and frankly saddening that in a country where the gap between the rich and the poor is big, and where the rate of unemployment among the youth is widening, such a challenge is far too unsettling. Yet, we need to acknowledge interventions and the great work that is done by government, organisations, institutions, health professions and campaigners in addressing and educating people about hypertension and its link to heart diseases and stroke. Moreover, efforts, although they need to be backed with efficient health services, on health awareness and health education need to take centre stage from both government and civil society.
 
By: Muzikayise Mike Maseko 

Pages

NGO Services

NGO Services