Mothers of children with disability are unsung heroes who do amazing things every day. They show tremendous patience, courage and self-sacrifice.
Since 2012, Afrika Tikkun has been empowering caregivers of children with disability to be effective change agents on a community, national and state level on behalf of their children.
These mothers often with nothing more than their disability grant, and frequently being the only caregiver, champion their children. This is something that is seen globally.
These mothers have carried their children to school on their backs and put their last rands into taxis to carry them to and fro hospital. They have painted their houses purple as a declaration that their children are nothing to be ashamed of. Instead they have challenged the stigma of having a disability and in so doing helped to bring others out of the shadows.
Harvard Professor Michael Stein, who recently visited and consulted to our Empowerment Programme, has contributed to the development of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with of Disability (CRPD) and has worked in 42 countries recently informed us that globally, it is “overwhelmingly, the mothers, sisters and women (who) are doing the work of advocacy”. He also said, “there is no power greater than love, and no ally better than an angry mother”. We love that.
Afrika Tikkun has been actively involved in lifting up a new generation of agents in the form of powerful community-based self-help groups made up of mothers, gogos, sisters … mainly women.
These Community-based Rehabilitation self-help groups based in townships or inner city communities have demonstrated that coming together, partnering with State and non-State actors and persistently motivating for change is an effective strategy in the pursuit of human rights for all. They have transformed from lonely, ashamed, disenfranchised, unemployed, unskilled parents on the edge of despair to formidable, loved and loving individuals, who through uniting their efforts have earned the respect and the ear of South Africa’s duty bearers.
Through their tireless advocacy, government has opened a school in Orange Farm for learners with special education needs (now in its 2nd year). Through their efforts they work with close to 947 families of children with disability across the townships where we are based (including Mfuleni in the camp).
They are amazing and inspiring and worthy of some recognition. They are also firebrands who have taken their cause up with government and duty bearers at national and even international levels.
I think it’s time these women, who have learned that power comes from love and is for love, have something to share with South Africa and Mother’s Day is a great day for them to be celebrated and heard.