Disability and Culture,  Disabled Bodies,  Education

African Culture and Disability, Experiences of People with Disabilities: Part One

Statistically, above one billion people making up the world population is disabled, 80% of people with disabilities in the world are found in developing nations with 20% of this population being found in the very poorest of these countries. In Africa, about 40% of the population has some form of disabilities making up to approximately 80 million people. On the sad side, disability in many parts of the world is seen as a disadvantage and more so a curse. This leaves persons with disabilities in exposure to violence, abuse and worst of them being marginalization and sometimes these are vindicated by cultural beliefs and practices.

There is indeed a relationship between culture and disability both from the positive and negative perspectives. Many are the times when the negative aspects of culture surpluses the positive ones. The negative cultural beliefs and practices about disability and the aspects of exclusion faced by the disabled women and their relationship or origin in their various cultural beliefs and practices are in most cases never looked into and ends up being viewed from the perspective of cultural normalcy. There are different ways in which each disability is looked at and how the individuals are treated in different cultural backgrounds hence reveling a clear and significant relationship between the cultural beliefs and practices and the experiences of women with disabilities which translates to perpetual marginalization of disabled women.

On the other hand, there are noticeable positive attitudes towards disability and persons with disabilities. With the introduction of formal education and Christianity there are some progressive positive attitudes about disability. However, there are some African traditional beliefs and myths in relation to disability that promoted the acceptance and good treatment of the disabled. In most cases where there are positive attitudes towards people with disabilities, it is seen that persons with disabilities and their parents and families tend to have positive beliefs about disability. There are generally small changes in negative attitudes that has been progressively observed among parents of children with disabilities. This in most cases is seen in cases where there is education about disability and also counseling given to parents after the birth of a disabled child. This therefore is an indicator that formal education is a good way of de-mystifying, dispelling and challenging some negative cultural myths and beliefs that are attached to disability.

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