Challenging Barriers: Living with Disabilities

BY INUNONSE NGWENYA, Project Worker from the YWCA of Zambia.

“For whatever reason, it happened to and it can happen to anyone else.  By being disabled I will not condemn myself to suffer for the rest of my life. I believe this information can inspire many who are in the same difficult situations in their lives. People give up in life because the lack inspiration never should a persons living with disabilities give up because along the way they will meet amazing people who will make their dark day bright.” – A young woman living with disabilities from Zambia.



Persons with disabilities remain amongst the most marginalized in every society. In every region in the world, in every country in the world, persons with disabilities often live on the margins of society, deprived of some of life’s fundamental experiences. They have little hope of going to school, getting a job, having their own home, creating a family and raising their children, enjoying a social life For the vast majority of the world’s persons with disabilities, shops, public facilities, transport, and even information are largely out of reach.

Zambia Federation of disability organizations (ZAFOD) was formed by 11 member NGOs in Zambia. Under ZAFOD, the Zambian civil society, including YWCA, envisions a society where persons with disabilities, enjoy equal rights and opportunities that are generally available in society and are necessary for the fundamental elements of living and development, including education, employment, health, housing, financial and personal security, family life, participation in social and political groups, religious activity, sports, access to public facilities and freedom of movement.

So far, there is an uphill task by CSOs for realizing such a vision. The good news however, is that some private companies have began to take heed and have employed chefs that are deaf in their restaurant. Secondly Ms. Patricia Jere, a woman living with disabilities was appointed the permanent secretary in the ministry of Justice back in 2011. She is one the highest qualified Women Lawyers in Zambia. These cases encourage YWCA Zambia and other CSOs in Zambia to deliver programmes for young women living with disabilities. Pick n Pay stores for instances employed some people living with disabilities as cashiers. It is our call, as YWCA Zambia to call all key stakeholders to join and expand such bold initiatives by government and private sector to create such opportunities to empower young women living with disability.

Gender issues in disability

Women with disabilities have got equal rights as women without disabilities and should be treated at par with those without disabilities. They also have equal rights with men with disabilities. Zambia’s environment still perpetrates unfair treatment and discrimination of women with disabilities hence violating their human rights. YWCA Zambia’s programmes are attempting to addresses this on a general programming level.

Under the new five year strategic plan (2013-18), YWCA Zambia places women’s empowerment as one of  5 strategic priorities.

  • Youth,
  • Disability,
  • Gender balance
  • Sports and Recreation

YWCA Zambia subscribes to the position that sporting and recreational facilities should be accessible to all disabled people more so, the young people as a matter of right as opposed to just leisure.  Although there are commendable attempts to provide various sporting and recreational activities to young people in Zambia, YWCA Zambia has observed that most of these facilities are not user-friendly with young people living with disabilities. Civil Society needs to takes up cases of inaccessibility to such facilities to the duty-bearers so that the affected youth can enjoy their rights. Notable challenges faced by young people with disabilities in Zambia includes; inaccessible infrastructure and denial of entry.