On 23rd May 2015, SEW- EGAP Women Empowerment Policy Dialogue on ‘Women and Disability’ was held at SEPLAA Foundation. This conference is a part of SEPLAA’s Women Empowerment Policy Dialogue Series, which is a program serving to deliberate about the practice of women empowerment and the status of women in today’s Pakistani society, and representing the findings of the research to the government.
At this conference, the speakers included Shafiquur Rehman from Milestones, Naureel Abbas from Dreams and Zahra Wyne from ‘Life, Blood & Compassion.’ These speakers shed light upon the various challenges that women in Pakistan with disabilities face, what they have successfully accomplished, and how women are working for the disabled in the country. The conference was attended by a number of enthusiastic listeners, who engaged in meaningful discussion with the speakers and brought up various issues and questions in regard to the topic, as result of which the conference bore fruit.
As indicated by many studies, women with disabilities are amongst the most sidelined and disadvantaged people in the world because they face a number of obstacles in the path to achieving their goals; they may face limited employment opportunities, face problems in achieving a full education, and may not be as well housed as other population groups. All these points were intensively discussed at the conference and important issues relating to Women and Disability were highlighted, promoting greater awareness about the issue.
There are many persons with disabilities who are creating opportunities for themselves by learning how to move about independently with the help of organizations such as Milestones. Yet others are on their way to help some learn how to set up their own small businesses such as the Impact Change Xcelerator Incubator under the SEPLAA Foundation.
When asked how disabled wheelchair bound persons thought of the term ‘disability’, some remark that they do not view themselves as disabled. However they have to constantly wrestle with the expectations of society that they cannot do things and that is crippling.
It becomes a delicate matter trying to balance sympathy for a person who is disabled and the need to just see them as people with the same likes and dislikes as any normal person. During the SEW-EGAP Women Empowerment Policy Dialogue on ‘Women & Disability’ , when the question was raised as to how does a disabled person want to be seen in society, Mr. Shafiq ur Rehman, President of Milestones, a wheel chair bound determined entrepreneur, replied ‘Just like anyone else, without pity.’
Other disabled participants added that they already overcome huge personal ordeals and struggle to come to the point where they can face the world. And when they do, they do not want to be reminded over and over again about what they have already fought to overcome, in order to take the first steps towards normalcy.