Hilda Malikebu, "Disability is not inability"

Hilda Malikebu is a 34-year-old newspaper editorial assistant. She spoke to IRIN about the difficulties faced by people who are physically challenged in Malawi - from basic problems around access to buildings, to the psychological toll on self-esteem a life-time of obstacles can generate.



"I get a lot support from my colleagues at my place of work. My seniors are very supportive. [But] in general, when you look at the picture of the disabled in Malawi, there is a lot that needs to be done.



"People who are physically challenged are not considered when it comes to structures such as houses, public buildings, entertainment centres, schools and offices. They have to rely on someone to carry them to the office where they work, or [when they have to visit] someone.



"In schools, children with disability rely on their friends to have access to classes that have steps. If their colleagues decide not to assist them, then they don't have access to classes, and eventually miss lessons.



"Some of our young men and women are denied access to institutions of higher learning because university campuses are quite unfriendly ... Most institutions were constructed without considering those with disabilities.



"Many people with disabilities are frustrated, and they stay away from school. The result has been that many people with disabilities are among the poorest of the poor. They are reduced to beggars in our streets.



"The physically challenged, or people with disabilities, need to be empowered, and the best way to do [that is] through education. Once they are educated they will support themselves and their families.



"Let them have access to loans, just like anyone else. Let them do small-scale businesses and their world will change forever. But the misconception that the physically challenged cannot do business is killing us. We think just like everyone else, we reason just like everyone else, what stops us from doing business?



"People should start looking at us as people who have the ability to deliver. They must understand that disability is not a disease but just a limitation to somebody [in performing] a certain function.



"Malawians must do away with the negative attitude towards people with disabilities. We also want to fully participate in all sectors of the economy, thereby contributing to the development of our country. Yes we can. Disability is not inability."



jk/oa