Cerebral Palsy non-governmental organisation founder, Mysi Badenhorst has called on the Botswana government to rectify the United Nations (UN) Convention on people living with disabilities.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol was adopted in 2006 at the UN Headquarters and was opened for signature on 2007.
The convention follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches toward persons living with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as ‘objects’ of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as ‘subjects’ with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.
Badenhorst, who is a mother of a child living with disabilities due to some complications she encountered when giving birth, said the UN Convention could improve the lives of children living with disabilities. Despite her multiple attempts to get the government through the Ministry of Health and Wellness to sign the convention, her attempts run futile. For 12 years now the government has been dodging them, she said.
“The government and medical facilities do not help us at all. Taking care of children with different disabilities and cerebral palsy is expensive. The government does not help us with wheel chairs and we have to rely on hand outs from NGOs. We also have to buy disposable nappies for our children throughout their lives, which is expensive. When we try to seek help from the Office of the President under people living with disabilities department, we come back empty-handed,” she said.
She also explained that their efforts to
Badenhorst argued that children with disabilities do not have access to education as they only have one school unlike other children with different disabilities such as visual impairment and hearing impairment. Furthermore, she has called on the public to accept them and their children saying that there is stereotype that mothers who give birth to children with disabilities slept with other men when “still lactating”.
“Our children are called names such as ‘setlhogwana’, ‘mopakwana’ and other hurtful names. We want the society to accept and embrace our children as we are going through difficulties. We cannot be able to raise our children alone. We need their support to give us strength. Some parents hide their children because they are afraid of stigma,” she said.
Cerebral Palsy NGO was formed to support both parents and children living with the disabilities. Badenhorst said that after realising local health practitioners were not trained on how to take care of children living with the disabilities, she did an online course and trained how to feed and care for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Badenhorst has taken it upon herself to teach parents of children living with various disabilities how to feed and take care of their children.
Her organisation gives the emotional and skills support needed by such children and their families.