Silent cry for help

A re­cent workshop to em­power women liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties turned out to be an eye-opener for many.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By WU NI

MORE than two dozen women with dis­abil­i­ties, to­gether with their care­givers, par­tic­i­pated in a four-day re­gional workshop in Pat­taya, Thai­land, last month.

Themed Voices Of Our Own: Em­pow­er­ing Women With Dis­abil­i­ties, the workshop aimed to help women use avail­able hu­man rights chan­nels and re­sources as ad­vo­cacy tools to elim­i­nate vi­o­lence against dis­abled women.

There were at least two par­tic­i­pants each from Asean mem­ber coun­tries such as Brunei, Cambodia, In­done­sia, Laos, Malaysia and Viet­nam. The Philip­pines and Sin­ga­pore were un­able to par­tic­i­pate in the spe­cial event.

Malaysia had two rep­re­sen­ta­tives, one of whom was Law King Kiew, a par­a­lympian at the Syd­ney Par­a­lympics in 2000.

Law shared that this was one of the most eye-open­ing work­shops which she had at­tended.

“Apart from wheel­chair-users, there were also per­sons who were blind,” said Law, 53, who be­came paral­ysed from the waist down fol­low­ing a spinal in­jury at the age of 19.

“What was dif­fer­ent about this workshop was the pres­ence of per­sons with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties who were usu­ally left out of such events,” Law ob­served, adding that it was in­ter­est­ing to get their in­put which was con­veyed by their par­ents who were the care­givers.

Law, who sees her­self as an ac­tivist for the dis­abled, said the most poignant sto­ries came from Deaf par­tic­i­pants. Nearly half a dozen of them were from the host coun­try, Thai­land. The or­gan­is­ers in­cluded the Deaf in the workshop to raise aware­ness among par­tic­i­pants, es­pe­cially those with other types of hand­i­caps.

Par­tic­i­pants shared sto­ries of how they were de­nied ed­u­ca­tion and faced dis­crim­i­na­tion and so­cial stigma as women with dis­abil­i­ties in their re­spec­tive coun­tries. It was the Deaf women’s strug­gles that were the most heart­break­ing. “They suf­fered more, es­pe­cially as vic­tims of vi­o­lence, as their dis­abil­ity was in­vis­i­ble,” said Law.

Par­tic­i­pants heard horror sto­ries of how some Deaf women were dragged into nearby bushes and raped af­ter vis­it­ing the tem­ple to ful­fil their re­li­gious obli­ga­tions. They were

Ac­tivist: un­able to shout or scream for help be­cause of their con­di­tion. Lodg­ing a re­port with the au­thor­i­ties was another night­mare as the po­lice were un­fa­mil­iar with sign lan­guage.

“The Deaf’s com­plaints were of­ten not taken se­ri­ously. Some of them were even ac­cused of invit­ing trou­ble,” said Law.

The workshop par­tic­i­pants dis­cov­ered that such sit­u­a­tions did not only hap­pen in pub­lic places but also in board­ing school dor­mi­to­ries, at the work­place and even in the home.

The Deaf re­lated their sto­ries in close-door ses­sions with the help of sign lan­guage in­ter­preters.

The full-day ses­sions ended with free time in the evenings for shop­ping and vis­its.

Law was pleased with the dis­abled-friendly re­sort where they stayed dur­ing the four-day workshop from Jan 13 to 16.

“The or­gan­is­ers should be credited for mak­ing sure that the wash­rooms were fit­ted with fea­tures such as grab bars and wide doors,” Law said.

The speak­ers and train­ers were all women with dis­abil­i­ties ex­cept for one man in a wheel­chair who spoke on me­dia sen­si­tiv­ity to per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties.

The first two days of the work­shops were spent fa­mil­iaris­ing par­tic­i­pants with the is­sues at hand and what the workshop hoped to achieve. The third day in­cluded learn­ing trips to a cou­ple of places.

“One of the most in­spir­ing venues was a vo­ca­tional school for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties. The stu­dents were taught a num­ber of skills and learnt English and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, and how to use com­put­ers. All the teach­ers were vol­un­teers and most of the staff, in­clud­ing the prin­ci­pal, were wheel­chair users.

“We also vis­ited another vo­ca­tional out­fit for so­cial en­trepreneurs where non-dis­abled stu­dents were en­cour­aged to sit in wheel­chairs or be blind­folded to en­able them to ex­pe­ri­ence what it was like to live with a dis­abil­ity.

“They had to put away their mo­bile phones and live with­out elec­tric­ity on cer­tain days, and even skipped a meal to ex­pe­ri­ence hunger,” Law added.

Law King Kiew (fore­front) pos­ing with par­tic­i­pants at a re­cent workshop to raise dis­abil­ity aware­ness in Pat­taya, Thai­land.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.