Many young people in developing countries are subject to social stigmatization, they are excluded from institutions, for instance: schools, youth clubs, associations… These youth-whom we refer to as “socially marginalized”-are young people with disabilities who are among the poorest of the world’s youth.
The United Nations, Division for Social Policy and Development estimates that there are between 180 and 220 million youth with disabilities worldwide, and nearly 80% of them are in developing countries.
These young people are more subject to poverty, lack of education and job skills comparing to the other young peers. In addition, socially marginalized youth are often seen as a catastrophic obstacle by their communities and families. In many developing countries, there are certain traditional dogmas defining the causes of disability as curses resulted in the children and their parents being shunned. Consequently, families tend to ignore the needs of their children; this ignorance is shown by the high levels of malnourishment, lower rates of necessary vaccinations, and higher rates of infection and serious disease among children and youth with disabilities.
All of the problems that face youth, like access to quality education, decent employment, health necessary services and social care, and civic engagement, also affect youth with disabilities, but in far more complex level. Discrimination attitudes towards youth with disabilities make it much more difficult for them to go to school, to find work or to participate in social life. In addition, they have to bear challenges related to gender, poverty, ethnicity and sexuality.
These young people feel that their opportunities are being denied due to negative attitudes, discrimination and barriers that ban them from accessing to different areas. But these difficulties rise even more among young women with disabilities, who in addition to their disabilities, their gender often limits their opportunities -people tend to consider them even more weaker- these young women face double discrimination; one because of their disability and the other because of their gender.
Many young women with disabilities are enormously vulnerable to sex abuse and exploitation, especially those who can’t speak and communicate their feelings. Many young women described significant barriers, which make it difficult for them to access to school, health care services and social help.
Young women with disabilities encounter challenges greater than those affecting men, and they do not have similar opportunities, women with disabilities do not benefit from same personal freedom, as most families often over-protect them by restricting their movements.
Many cases were reported by the United Nations reports showing the risk of sex abuse and exploitation that face women with disabilities, many of them are subject of rape, unwanted pregnancies, abuse, and abandonment.
These social stigmas behaviors and lack of stable supportive environment diminish their self-efficacy-from an early age- needed to take part of the development of their surroundings.
The United Nations has long recognized the necessity of young people participation in civic engagement of their countries and considers youth as vibrant for the development of their societies. For many years government leaders have recognized young people as a key human resource for development and major agents for economic and social development.
But, do all youth have the same chance to participate? Do we live in equal society?
It seems we live in unfair society where youth with disabilities cannot participate in decision-making community and have limited opportunities to take part of the civic development. Many young people with disabilities feel that their contribution and views are often not taken seriously by decision makers.
There is an urgent call to provide services for these young people by facilitating access to reproductive health services; and taking into account the issues they face of violence and distrust, assistance services need to establish an environment of respect, acceptance, and stability.
It is important to establish individual and group awareness counseling with these young people and their parents, and help them build their self-esteem and achieve more control over their lives and express themselves.
Governments need to develop viable job opportunities for these young people so to engage them and make them feel part of the community by offering formal and informal education, providing training in literacy, numeracy and life skills, as well as job trainings and apprenticeships.
It is important to raise awareness among the society on the necessity to include these young people in their communities by respecting them and treat them equally, develop education and communication activities to help them understand and assert their rights and with advocacy activities to raise awareness and mobilize society to protect these rights. Governments need not only to establish laws “protecting the rights of youth with disabilities”, but also insure their application on the ground and sanction those who don’t respect these young people.
Written by: Sana AFOUAIZ
Title by: Chantal BENGALY