Women with disabilities "are often excluded from the society, and are no longer seen as recipients of the gift of God,” said the Rev Micheline K. Kamba at a recent World Council of Churches (WCC) conference.
It is vital, she said, to work and pray for action amidst the alarming situation of growing violence against women with disabilities.
Ms Kamba, herself a person living with disability from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and member of the WCC Central Committee, works as a volunteer coordinator for French-speaking Africa for the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN), a project of the World Council of Churches.
It was at a recent EDAN conference which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 27 February to 2 March 2013, that Ms Kamba spoke about the marginalization of women with disabilities, encouraging churches to be more proactive in advocating and protecting their rights.
“[Many] women with disabilities experience severe psychological problems. They have difficulty in seeing that God is on their side. They think they are cursed, and that they are ‘bad luck’ for the society,” said Ms Kamba.
“There is great urgency that a solution is found in light of the WCC’s strong statement on seeking peace and reconciliation. It stresses that ‘real peace’ is possible when women who are crushed in their inner beings could find their raison d’être, the meaning of their existence,” said Kamba.
She went on to say that testimonies shared by women with disabilities at the WCC’s 9th Assembly in Brazil, 2006, and the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica, 2011, manifest such women’s vulnerability to abuse, harassment and rape.
“Therefore, peace, reconciliation and healing would take place when our efforts allow us to reconstruct a positive image of the survivor women with disabilities,” she noted.
“These efforts need to be accompanied by promoting ecumenical co-operation between women from different backgrounds. This awareness can empower women and help them to stand against all sorts of abuse,” concluded Ms Kamba.
The EDAN conference invoked these reflections on “violence against women with disabilities” focusing on the prayer “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”, the theme of the WCC’s upcoming 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea.
The conference gathered around thirty international participants, including women with disabilities from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Burundi, Kenya, South Africa, Togo and the United Sates.
The event was hosted by “The Haven”, a shelter in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa which provides protection to victims of domestic violence and abuse.
* Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network: http://www.edan-wcc.org/
* WCC programme on Just and Inclusive Communities: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/programmes/unity-mission-evangelism-and-spir...