Famine and disability

The scenes of people in the Horn of Africa having to walk for miles to the nearest UN camp seems to suggest a survival of the fittest, if that word can be used at all for millions of people who are weak from a lack of food. Mothers are having to decide which of their children to save during the trek and are leaving behind the weakest ones who are unlikely to survive.
I have been wondering about how people with mobility impairments are coping with having to walk all those miles in stifling heat. Does anyone have any information on this? From my reading of general material on the subject there is a suggestion that women with mobility impairments are often the worst hit.
Disability is an issue that is being embraced in development objectives. The Australian government has recognised it as such in the giving of foreign aid. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) has also recognised disability as a development objective and states that 10% of people with disabilities count towards the world’s population but account for 20% of global poverty. That is a hugely disproportionate figure by any account.
Part of the fightback must come from helping to mainstream disability as part of society and it is a responsibility borne by everybody, not just charities and organisations. The Disability Hate Crime campaign is seeking to change attitudes towards people with disabilities. The vulnerable are not there to be targets of malicious actions. Changing attitudes starts with every single human being.

The Domestication of Motherhood

‘The Domestication of Motherhood’ is the title of a chapter in Adrienne Rich’s book, ‘Of Woman Born’. As the summer school holidays approach the relevance of the title becomes more apt for some mothers. There’s been a plethora of articles on how mothers are stressed and are dreading the prospect of having their children around for weeks on end.

Much of motherhood is about cooking and cleaning; making sure the children do their homework; ferrying the children to their classes; and ensuring that their quality of life is satisfactory overall. It is hard work. Somewhere in between all this mothers are also expected to experience the joy of motherhood while suffering from exhaustion.

Domestic life is still ruled by a patriarchal society. According to Adrienne Rich, man relates to a woman as a mother in a practical mode. I interpret this as meaning that man expects woman to look after the home because he sees domesticity as being part of the domain of motherhood. Domesticity isn’t seen as being serious work either eventhough it forms a part of motherhood. A mother is only doing what comes naturally to her so society doesn’t see domestic work as being important.

It really is a vicious cycle but I see women all around me who manage to combine the domestication of motherhood while still retaining their female independence and managing to look after their children well. It’s called multi-tasking; a phrase which men hate. Nevertheless, it is only when the ‘The Domestication of Motherhood’ becomes an outdated phrase that women can claim true autonomy in the domestic arena.

Where is the protection for the disabled?

This blog post is dedicated to all the vulnerable people like Michael Gilbert who were targetted and, even, killed because of their disability.

Michael Gilbert, 26, was killed by a family of criminals who kept him enslaved for 10 years. They partly lived off his income benefit and, for entertainment, beat him regularly. He tried to run away a few times but these despicable people found him and dragged him back. Finally, they killed him. A review into poor Michael’s life has concluded that he was let down by the authorities who were meant to have been looking after him.

A newspaper today has published a picture of Michael as a baby and he looks a happy little thing. I love children and the photo particularly has moved me to write this blog. How can society fail any human being who is disabled and who cannot look after themselves? Is this a case of the ‘excessive indivualism’ that has become a catchword for the failure of society to act collectively against what is wrong and immoral?

Katharine Quarmby, author of ‘Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People?”, says that ‘…disabled people are routinely robbed, tortured and…killed by so-called friends or those considered to be proxy families’. She calls for three reviews: 1. serious case reviews for all deaths of vulnerable adults; 2. a clear directive on the legality of information sharing (to make sharing of information between various organisations easier); and 3. police must be involved in serious safeguarding referrals.

If this is what it takes to protect the disabled then I hope the authorities are listening. Please do leave a comment below or of someone you know who has suffered. I have a vested interest in the protection of the vulnerable in society because I am a Director of The Powerhouse Trust which is a charity for women with learning difficulties and disablities.

Is being a mother of a starving child a political situation?

For days now I have been watching with dismay the scenes of mothers carrying and dragging their starving and dehydrated children into camps being run by international charities such as CAFOD and Doctors Without Borders in Africa. The Horn of Africa (the most eastern part of the African continent) has not had any rain for two years resulting in a severe food shortage. The extra burden of rising food prices has made eating out of the question for millions in the area.

Why in this modern day are we watching scenes of babies crying in pain and dying in front of TV camera lenses? Why are we watching helpless mothers watch their children die of starvation? All they need is food, water and medical supplies. The solution is as simple as that yet it seems as if much of the globe has been covered with a sticker which states ‘nil by mouth’.

Starvation in modern day is a political issue. We can’t keep blaming the weather anymore. If globalisation can result in multinational corporations setting up bases across the world; people migrating to seek their fortunes elsewhere; and the financial systems able to work around the clock to accommodate different time zones then why not a strategy to eradicate starvation?

It is partly because of corrupt political regimes that siphon money away from the poor and disenfranchised. It is also because of tribal infighting between tribes in Africa who each think they are superior to the other. It is also because of Science not being embraced fast enough to introduce solutions such as GM modified foods. It is also because the world has become used to Africa being a poor relation and forgets to feed it.

Mothers of starving and dying children are caught up in a political nightmare. It is only by the accident of birth that you or I aren’t one of those poor women. Thus, we owe it to them to raise awareness.

Marriage as a tool of child abuse

While our daughters in the West play at dressing up to look like a bride or a Princess bride young girls in the Global South are being forced to get married. The practice of child brides involves girls as young as 12 being forced by their poverty stricken families to get married. Sometimes an early marriage occurs because rape is a common incident in the village where the girl lives and a raped female carries a stigma which attaches itself to her family too.

One less mouth to feed is most commonly the incentive for these girls to be given away by their parents. These girls have to give up their childhood and often have to move far away from their families and are left to fend for themselves. Their husbands are often much older and view these girls as slaves to the household. The practice generated publicity when a 10 year old girl asked for a divorce in Yemen from her husband who was in his 30s. A book was written about this incident, ‘I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced’.

Contrast the notion we have in the West of marriage being a union of choice and happiness with the abject misery these girls have to experience. While our daughters dream of wedding gowns and expensive rings these girls dream of playing with their friends and going to school.