Project One: Access to Justice
The overall objective of the action is to address the barriers of sexual and gender-based violence amongst women and children with intellectual disabilities (Down syndrome) and their families in South Africa. This will be achieved by implementing the following key specific objectives:
- To enhance knowledge about sexual and ender – based violence of women and children with intellectual disabilities in South Africa by organizing capacity building programmes and training.
- To enhance knowledge of community stakeholders to address the issue of sexual and gender-based violence within their communities by facilitating and supporting outreach programmes.
- To enhance awareness to service providers / government at national, regional and local level about sexual and gender-based violence against women and children with intellectual disabilities by engaging robustly in dialogue forums.
Both men and women with disabilities are subject to discrimination because of their disabilities. Article 6 of the United nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRD) asserts that women and girls with disabilities have a further disadvantage because of their gender and their disability. The recent incident reported in South Africa of a 13 year old boy with Down syndrome allegedly being raped in school highlights the fact that urgent measures are needed to address sexual violence and abuse against persons with intellectual disabilities.
The committee on the Rights of persons with Disabilities in its concluding observations to the South African Government under Article 14 “Access To Justice”, noted the following concerns:
- The barriers , including physical and legislative, that prevent the effective participation of all persons with disabilities, especially women and children , persons with psychosocial and /or intellectual disabilities , blind and deaf persons, in accessing the justice system, due to lack of procedural accommodations, including accessibility, in the judicial system.
- The absence of information about the justice system and its proceedings in accessible formats.
- The limited knowledge about the human rights of persons with disabilities within the judicial system and inadequate number of trained professionals within the justice system.
Families of persons with intellectual disabilities are less likely to report cases of abuse due to stigma and discrimination. Cases that are reported to authorities rarely land up in a court of law. Persons with intellectual disabilities have significant difficulties in learning and understanding due to incomplete development of intelligence. For persons with intellectual disabilities, accessibility of information is o central importance. They need information in easy to understand format to participate fully in their life.
DSSA’s mandate as per 5.3 and 5.8 of our Constitution is to:
- To promote public awareness and improve attitudes towards persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.
- To encourage the development of programmes and services that may be appropriate and beneficial for persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.
As an advocacy organisation, DSSA strives for the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities, specifically on Down syndrome and to put programmes in place to address challenges of sexual and gender-based violence. The proposed action in this proposal will also promote partnership with key stakeholders, innovation and best practice to address the problem of sexual and gender-based violence of women and children with intellectual disabilities in South Africa.
With the set objectives and proposed activities, the expected specific results are as follows:
- Beneficiaries: Increased knowledge about sexual and gender –based violence of women and children with intellectual disabilities in South Africa. Because of the vulnerability of women and children with intellectual disabilities to sexual and gender – based violence, this action will improve their situation because the knowledge will entail information on how to claim their human rights, and how to access the justice system;
- Community Stakeholders: Community leaders have the knowledge and capacity to address the issue of sexual and gender-based violence within their communities. This action will improve the situation of women and children with intellectual disabilities because of their vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence, community stakeholders will have the capacity to adequately address the problem in their various communities thus creating safer communities;
- Service Providers: Enhanced awareness by service providers/government (national, regional and local) about sexual and gender-based violence against women and children with intellectual disabilities. This action will improve the situation of women and children with intellectual disabilities because of their vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence as follows: The enhanced awareness of the service providers will have an impact on the policies and programmes developed, implemented and monitored in South Africa. This enhanced awareness will determine whether the policies and programmes are improving the quality of life of women and children with intellectual disabilities exposed to sexual and gender-based violence in terms of prevention, protection, transformation and promotion. This might prompt a need for legislative review.
Project Two: Family Development and Empowerment
People with disabilities like all people, are born into families and they are part of their respective families. It is every family members wish to be able to play a part in supporting their members with disabilities to live full lives and to enjoy equal opportunities in the family, in the community and in society. However, families need information and support to empower themselves to successfully meet this desire.
Many family members of and including persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities do not fully understand what Down syndrome is. Often they receive misleading information from health care workers. It is therefore vital that our members are informed of the correct information and empowered to be able to know their rights in order to access necessary services that they so desperately need.
For family development and empowerment to be effective, it must be ongoing, based not only on the use of written information but other teaching methods, which includes hands on teaching in the home environment.
DSSAs mandate as per 5.1 of our Constitution is to:
- To provide information and facilitate communication among Down syndrome organisations in South Africa and other role players in the field of intellectual disabilities.
The objective of this project is that family members as well as service providers will be invited to participate in workshops to empower them on issues that will:
- Reduce stigmatisation and segregation of people with intellectual disabilities in communities, in order to improve their quality of life;
- Learn their rights as family member or as a person with a disability as per The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as the New White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
- As a service provider what should i know and what can i do?
The set objectives would lead to the following outcomes:
- Stigma and negative attitudes towards persons with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome will be reduced by examples of best practice;
- Parents will have a better understanding of their rights and will trust and have confidence in inclusive practices to achieve an improved quality of life for their children through a support manual that addresses various development stages;
- Service providers will have a better understanding of challenges faced by family members of children with Down syndrome, therefore improving their access to vital services.
The project will be implemented in the following outreaches in Kimberly (Galeshewe), Potchefstroom (Ikageng) Tzaneen (Nwamitwa), Tshwane Gauteng and in order to grow our national footprint the establishment of a new support group in Polokwane.