Ms. Caroline Atim Spearheads Advocacy for the Rights of Women with Disabilities at the South Sudanese Constitutional Review Workshop in Torit, Eastern Equatoria State
By Vincent Buruga, Torit, Eastern Equatoria state
Despite her hearing impairment, Ms. Caroline Atim maintains focus in articulate and charming manner to canvass support for rights of Women with Disabilities in South Sudan.
“It’s important the government gives 5 percent affirmative action to women with disabilities who are always cheated by their able bodied counterparts,” demands Ms. Caroline Atim.
As a member of South Sudan Women with Disabilities Network, Ms. Atim observes that the five percent affirmative action would create gender equity among women in the country.
“All along, the government had given women 25 percent Affirmative Action but it only benefits the able bodied who have typical negative attitudes towards the disabled ones, Ms. Atim adds.
Speaking with the assistance of her interpreter Mr. Victor Oyoo, Ms. Atim, who hails from Magwi county of Eastern Equatoria, articulately convinced participants at constitutional review workshop in Torit.
“Governments have to build the capacity of women with disabilities and if they are illiterate, they shall still try,” Ms. Atim persuades.
“We cannot wait representation by able bodied women except that they shall have to build the capacity of women with disabilities at all levels, she said.
She calls for quality education for people with disabilities, saying the deaf can learn sign language and those with visual impairment use brails as elements of global inclusiveness.
“We need quality education and if deaf people can learn through sign language and if interpreters are there, they can be elements of global world of inclusive education,” she said.
“If women with disabilities were empowered, they get courage to acquire enough knowledge and skills by taking courses in various disciplines and vocations.”
A Deaf at the Forefront of Advocacy for the Rights of Women with Disabilities Ms. Caroline Atim Spearheads Advocacy for the Rights of Women with Disabilities at the South Sudanese Constitutional Review Workshop in Torit, Eastern Equatoria State
Ms. Atim observes that their demand for affirmative action is sometimes perceived for politi17
cal participation only, saying it limits the broader aspects of inclusiveness.
“Talking about representation, people only think of politics, yet women with disabilities can do many other things but the first thing is empowerment for self-reliance,” she says.
She notes that given the 5 percent affirmative action, it becomes very simple for women with disabilities to carry out mobilization and raise awareness, if they are well represented at all level.
The activist calls for deliberate efforts to build the capacity of illiterate women, refuting ideas that women with disabilities can only have political representation at national arena.
“It’s only the political scenario at national level that is disturbing most of the people but women with disabilities can have representation at all levels, even the 5 % is little,” Ms. Atim stressed.
Ms. Atim, who declines having personal desires of joining politics, says her interest is to mobilize and build the capacity of women with disabilities across the country.
“I’m not interested in politics but time will come for me to stand. I need to mobilize and work on capacity building to ensure that capacities of women are well built up,” she said.
“These representatives should be appointed in consultation with people with disabilities,” she stressed.
The women with disabilities seek constitutional insertion clauses to protect them from negative cultural practices and discrimination.
“Negative cultural practices and attitudes that discriminate against PWDs and Women with Disabilities should be eradicated through an article making them null and void,” Ms. Atim said.
“A disability Act should be established which includes within it a provision to ensure anyone found discriminating against PWDs must be punished by law,” she added.
Ms. Atim said Women with Disabilities also recommend for constitutional provision for protection on marriage and exact marriageable age of 18 years or above.
“Women and Women with Disabilities (WWDs) should be protected from forced marriage and sexual violence,” she advocates.
She said additional provisions should be added to the family law that protects WWDs from GBV and guarantees childcare support from the father.
The WWD need Article 16 (5) to specify that the rights to “inherit” for women inclusive of “women with disabilities”.
The Permanent Constitution should refer to persons with disabilities as persons with disabilities (PWDs) instead of Persons with Special Needs in line with the UN convention.
An article must be created to deal specifically with persons with disabilities the elderly should be included separately, Ms. Atim explained.
She said there should be a phrase that emphasizes the right to access public utilities, facilities and institutions, and equal rights to education and employment.
Swayed by Ms. Atim’s charming talks, MP. Angela Achiro, like other participants, agrees 5 per cent affirmative action towards women with disabilities is a great opportunity to help our disadvantaged daughters.
“Women with disabilities do not come from heavens or somewhere else but are our daughters. We can’t object to such brilliant ideas for the future of our children,” remarks MP. Achiro.
Team leader of South Sudan Law Society, Farouk Ismail Ukach says that the feedback collected from the citizens would be forwards to the Constitution Review Commission for analysis.