Persons with disabilities especially women are the poorest, vulnerable, and marginalized in Bangladesh. They are also least likely to have access to very resources that could improve their livelihoods. It is not surprising that although the link between poverty and disability has not been systematically examined. It is recognized that poverty and disability contributed to increasing vulnerability and excluded women especially women with disabilities from the decision-making power.
Exploitation, discrimination, deprivation, insulting remarks, sexual abuse, and dowry murders are well experienced by women with disabilities. Such acts of violence instilled a sense of insecurity that kept the women with disabilities bound to the home, economically exploited, and socially suppressed. An inaccessible environment is one of the major factors for the exclusion of women with disabilities for integration and inclusion in daily life.
Issues related to women with disabilities in Bangladesh are still dominated by ignorance, fear, and superstition in the community. The result of this has been neglect of the women with disabilities in all spheres of life. Women with disabilities in Bangladesh may be considered as double disadvantaged as they are already socially discriminated against by their male inmates within this male-dominated society.
When a baby with a disability is born into a family the family members and the relatives fall into an embarrassing situation and blame their fate that it is the result of the curse. In the case of the disability with a girl child, the situation creates a more embarrassing situation in the family. The effect of disability within the different families may differ but the experience is the same.
Parents acknowledge the disability as a burden for the family as well as the society who could not be contributed in the long run. The girls and women with disabilities are deprived of their basic human rights like food, clothes, education, and treatment, etc. that created a negative influence on the overall psychological development or mind of the women and girls.
Sexual abuse in many cases has caused stressful situations on the psyche of the girls and women with disabilities, which untimely made them isolated and frustrated. Access to education is very limited and more or less inaccessible in the different educational institutions if they have potentialities. In many cases, they are not acquiring education due to a large number of problems.
The overall development of a girl with disabilities depends on the attitudes of the people or community or surrounding them including a family member. In the case of positive attitude from family, other concerns in society, the girls and women with disabilities seem to be more confident and have success in life while negative attitudes made depressed dependent and a person with low self-esteem.
Access to education is very limited and, in many cases, inaccessible. Even if there some have potentialities, they are not often successful in getting educational facilities. Lack of specialized schools and the scope of the education are very limited. The common educational materials are not appropriate or not enough. Teachers are not well trained to conduct the special schools.
Most of the girls and women with disabilities who are pursuing education have to attend informal schools due to existing facilities for free primary education and lack of available facilities in high school, college, and university the enrollment rate is comparatively low. The women and girls with disabilities are attended in the non-formal education institution.
The dropout rate occurs from primary to secondary level. The women and girls with disabilities were either teased or venture to study were not supported by another member of the family of their surrounding environment. Accessibility to an educational institution is one of the major problems for girls and women with physical and visual impairments.
An inaccessible environment is one of the vital factors for the exclusion of women with disabilities for integration and inclusion in every corner of life. Accessibility of women and girls with disabilities demands the considerations of common impairment mobility and ability, built environment, etc. As a result, of impairment, disability, and lack of accessibility the people with disabilities are remaining invisible.
They are isolated from the mainstreaming development initiatives. In a sense, women and girls with disabilities are losing the opportunity of developing their inner potentialities. On the other hand, society and community have a negative attitude and underestimation of the creditability and potentialities of women with disabilities.
Access to jobs and other economic scopes for women with disabilities is very difficult. Women with disabilities have to surmount many barriers in involved in income-generating activities. It is very discouraging to note that a very insignificant number of women with disabilities is involved with full-time income-generating activities and employment.
Some of them are involved with income-generating activities most in the informal sector. The number is not notable some girls and women with disabilities are engaged in multi-sectoral jobs like office jobs, teaching, small business, day laborer, house-maid, handicraft worker, dairy and poultry worker.Most of the girls and women are not much aware of the issues related to the phases of reproductive health. People identify a disability, particularly of women, as a risk factor for reproductive health.
Society is still conservative to discuss reproductive health issues. The parents’ even mothers could not share any sexual and reproductive health issues or information with their daughters. Most adolescent girls get an idea about the phase of the physical development transition period from family members. The women and girls with speech and hearing impairment face difficulty in passing this period due to limited communication capability during their monthly special sickness.
Natural physical growth is a normal development process in the human body due to hormonal changes. The physical change also affects changes in behavior and attitudes of a person but intellectually disabled, could not measure or notice such physical changes that are usually expected hence they became worried. Involvement in romantic relationships ranks very high in life’s priorities for most women. The attitude towards marriage, behavioral aspect, the effect of disability on the partner’s behavior, environmental factors, social attitudes, and family expectations.
The situation is reserved in the case of women or adolescent girls with disabilities. The rate of marriage is much discouraging yet the family can find a spouse. One of the major causes of the frustration of women with disabilities and their families is people are hesitant to marry a girl with disabilities. Most of the marriages of women with disabilities took place against consideration of offering of big amount of cash or kind even land as dowry.
Communication is a basic human right but there is no such recognized communication mechanism such as sign language for the speech and hearing-impaired person in the country. In national women’s policy, the rights of women with a disability could not take place with due importance. During a disaster, the women and girls became most vulnerable no special measures were undertaken in the recent past.
The NGOs and other actors made this through a long persuasion and advocacy and activists on disability concerning issues. Although the enactment of the legislation has been accepted and considered as a milestone of development for ensuring the rights and privileges of the people with disabilities in the country the legislation itself has various limitations and shortcomings on its appropriate implementation. Under this legislation, the issue of women with a disability could not be mentioned clearly.
Women are the symbol of the social unity of the world. They maintain stability in the society and develop generation to generation but the women are discriminated against in the family, society, and state. For this discrimination, the women have been suffering from insecurity not in Bangladesh in the whole world. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure security for every citizen. Violence has been increased in the family to the state level. The type of violence has been changed and new types have been created acute insecurity of a woman.
Insecurity paralyzed the creativity of women and make constraints on their physical and mental health. The women are not secured at their residence of father, husband, school, college, playing field even in the working places. During any kind of natural disaster, women especially women with disabilities are most vulnerable.
Different efforts of the Bangladesh Government have been improved the situation of gender mainstreaming in Bangladesh but without mainstreaming of women with disabilities real development could not take place. In the mainstreaming development, the rights of women with disabilities could not incorporate with due importance which is very important to achieve gender mainstreaming in Bangladesh.
Hiren Pandit is a
Research Fellow, BNNRC