Putting Disability Rights in the Spotlight

With the support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC), JHR trainers continue their work in media development in South Sudan through enhancing the professional skills of experienced journalists in reporting and covering development, human rights and gender equality issues.

 

Chiara and Mustapha at work

By Mustapha Dumbuya, Trainer, South Sudan

Chiara Martin has just completed an interview with a visually impaired woman about disability rights issues in South Sudan.

She walks out of the studio looking satisfied with her conversation with this lady she describes as “inspiring.”

Catherine Visensio Lukiko grew up blind in Juba and has experienced discrimination and stigmatization.

Amidst the stack odds against her, she has managed to finish school and graduated with a Bachelor degree from the University of Juba in 2015.

Now 29, Catherine works as a counselor for a community rehabilitation program in Juba.

In her day’s work, she visits communities to encourage families with disabled girls to enroll them into schools. “my family was discouraged when I became blind at the age of 7 because they think it’s the end of life. But I was saved by my uncle who convinced them to enroll me into the school for the blind.”

People with disability often suffer discrimination and stigmatization but disabled girls, especially blind girls suffer a double discrimination in South Sudan. “For many communities in South Sudan, the incentive for sending girls to school was to educate them enough, so that their dowry price could increase. However, because of the limited chances to marry off a blind girl, their chances of being sent to school by their families are limited,” Catherine tells Chiara.

Chiara told me that she decided to become a journalist to report on stories like that of Catherine. “Catherine’s story and many other stories of brave women like her are not usually told by the media,’ adding that as a female journalist she wants to cover stories on gender-based violence, poverty and women’s health. This is to prioritize women’s right and this at least will address some of the problems that women are suffering. Catherine’s story really warms my heart,” she said.

South Sudan has just recently passed a national disability & inclusion policy. But provisions of that policy do not automatically guarantee the realization of disability rights. The country still has a long way to go to meet its commitment to creating a better world for people living with a disability.

So the importance of the work of people like Chiara Martin in bringing up these issues to the public domain cannot be overemphasized.

Amidst the daily daunting challenges that they’re faced with, reporters at radio Bakhita have continued to provide life-saving information to South Sudanese across the country.

Media freedom is fragile. Armed groups, weak legal institutions, and political pressures undermine free reporting. Journalists risk arrest over reports that criticize human rights abuses.

But Chiara and her colleagues have continued to soldier on.

When I started working with Bakhita radio in June, I’ve tried to mainstream gender issues within the newsroom.

Essentially, what this means was including news for and about women on the daily news bulletin and across other talk shows in the radio.

I also work to increase skills of reporters on reporting gender issues. This includes working not only to develop female journalists reporting skills but also building their confidence to tackle important gender issues.

“The newsroom is where we set the agenda on what people would talk about.

So it’s important that we also involve women so that we can put our issues on the agenda,” emphasized Chiara.

After telling her story, Catherine reflected that she is trying to return the favor of her uncle by also convincing families to enroll more girls with disabilities in school.

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