Author: Farirai Sinothando Sibanda
Master’s Candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
It is a gross injustice that disability rights in Africa have previously not been prioritised given that 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. However, this situation seems to be gaining some attention with most African states having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) with the exception of three, namely Cameroon, South Sudan and Eritrea. Following this trajectory, in 2018, the African Union (AU) member states adopted the African Disability Protocol which will enter into force after ratification by 15 AU member states. Despite its potential to enhance persons with disabilities’ enjoyment of their rights, as of March 2022, the African Disability Protocol has only been ratified by three countries namely; Mali, Kenya, and Rwanda which is disappointingly low.
The UNCRPD is a key instrument in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities, but it lacks the specificity to the African context. Due to poverty and other issues in Africa, the situation of persons with disabilities, especially women, differs radically from that in other regions. Article 6 of the UNCRPD addresses women in two general provisions by obligating states to protect them from discrimination, ensure enjoyment of their rights and empower them. However, it does not specify the actions that states must take to fulfil these obligations. Resultantly, the UNCRPD does not adequately address the unique situation of persons with disabilities in Africa.Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, during my studies I delved into the concept of stereotypes and their effects, albeit from a gender perspective. This academic encounter has become an important one to both my personal and professional frames of reference. I have discovered that my prior use and appreciation of the term stereotype was presumptuous, without depth and assumed familiarity. I had nonchalantly used the term often, in writing and conversation without fully appreciating the intricacies of this concept.
Quite worrying one might say, coming from a professional working on human rights, justice and equality issues – but I believe that my nonchalance is common among many of us. We tend to have a general over familiarisation with issues that form part of the realm in which we work and operate without necessarily appreciating the rudimentary theories underpinning particular terms or concepts.
So I think I deserve some credit for acknowledging my deficiency, and urge that we do not rush to deem as catastrophic such inadequacies in all circumstances because it is impossible to know everything about everything, even in your most familiar of territory. To be expected to know and fully understand each and every detail about a subject is a naïve expectation on the part of peers and an arrogant unintelligent assertion on the part of any such declarants. The universally renowned great mind Michelangelo, is remembered for his famous quote “ancora imparo” reportedly made at the age of 87 which means ‘I am still learning’ – well, so am I. So I ask for your indulgence as I share some of my learning on how stereotypes perpetuate inequality and marginalisation – you might just also learn that we all are still learning and need to keep learning.
I have learnt that stereotypes are a component of stigma. They assign negative attributes to socially salient differences forming what social identity theorists call in-group and out-group categorisation. People tend to stereotype as a means of screening people into either the in-group (us) or out-group (them) which in eventuality determines whether a group is accepted or rejected.
This categorisation (stereotyping) of other(s), provides people with a feeling of comfort and confidence based on what they are accustomed to, for predictability and personal security’s sake. Whilst it may be argued in some quarters that categorisation is useful in, for example, target marketing or planning of community and development projects among other mass planning purposes; unfortunately the cumulative effects of general categorisation and consequent stereotyping in most circumstances reinforce and perpetuate inequality.