HROC RWANDA RECENTLY HOSTED two Basic HROC workshops for people with disabilities and people with disabled family members.
“Many people despise us and discriminate against us because of our disabilities. Thank you HROC for working with us, listening to us, and please continue to represent us in the community.”
The Rwandan government estimates that out of a population approximating 11 million, about 522,850 Rwandans live with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities are extremely stigmatized in Rwandan society. It is not commonly recognized that individuals with disabilities have equal rights and should have equal opportunities or participation in the community. Children who are born with disabilities are frequently hid at home, as they are unwelcome at schools or in the community. Families with disabled persons face economic hardship, as it is difficult for individuals with disabilities to generate their own income, and medical expenses contribute to the financial burden.
We had a mix of participants- women with physically or mentally disabled children, participants who couldn’t walk, individuals with vision problems, or without use of arms or hands, etc. The HROC program was changed slightly to meet the needs of the handicapped community. While trauma was discussed, the emphasis was shifted to the ways that disabilities have impacted the community as well as the lives of disabled individuals and their families. Participants had time to reflect on loss, and how difficult it was to lose limbs or mobility or the expectation that one’s child would grow up to be able-bodied and accepted. Discussions centering on hope and despair also played a larger role in these workshops. Some creativity was needed to redesign physical activities, namely the trust walk and games to ensure the participation of all of the workshop attendees.
“It’s very important to me that you facilitators really care about our well-being. I learned that my life doesn’t end here, with my disability. Thank you for encouraging us to love ourselves and one another.”
As a way forward, HROC aims to create support groups so that the participants can continue to meet as a group and care for each other. There have been requests for help with income generating projects, and HROC is hoping to come up with a way to improve the livelihoods of these families.