Disabled people in Gaza fight for their rights, proving they are producers not consumers amid ignorance from the local authorities
YOUSEF ALHELOU, TRNN CORRESPONDENT, GAZA: The latest statistics conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of statistics show that there are about 40,000 people out of Gaza’s 1.7Â million population who suffer from different kinds of disabilities. Of those, 47Â percent have mobility impairments, and this number increases yearly because of the frequent military attacks and conflicts in Gaza. The second-largest group are those with hearing impairments, followed by visual impairments, then learning disabilities.
Many NGOs are working to support the disabled, offer psychosocial support, and create opportunities for them and help them overcome their disability by integrating them into the society.
IMAD MASRI, ERADAH PROJECT (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): Eradah Project is a Turkish-funded project targeting people with different disabilities, especially those who became disabled as a result of their injuries sustained during the 2009 and 2012 Israel wars on Gaza. We have finished the training process and now give these disabled the chance to be productive. We want them to feel that they are normal and integrate them into the society.
ALHELOU: These disabled people defeat all odds. They say that they are producers, not consumers.
ALHELOU: Handicapped Palestinians make and sell handmade products to maintain independency. These handmade products, which are ranging from embroideries, wooden and ceramic items, reflect the creativity of their makers, showcasing their products in exhibitions as they refuse to depend on charities.
Many disabled individuals in the Gaza Strip received electric wheelchairs that were donated and brought to the tiny strip by pro-Palestine activists and NGOs through humanitarian aid convoys. These wheelchairs give them hope to support their families, especially in light of the hardships and poverty.
The sports sector has been hit hard under years of an Israeli blockade and two devastating wars. Athletes, especially the disabled, say that they are practicing different kind of sports despite the lack of proper equipment and facilities. Some sports facilities, including the Disabled Union Building, were completely destroyed during the recent Israeli eight-day war on Gaza in NovemberÂ 2012. Al Jazeera Club, which is the only sports facility for women and girls, with its own women’s football team, amongst other activities, was also targeted, leaving the disabled athletes to train in poor facilities.
NABEEL HAMDEYAH, DISABLED ATHLETE (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): I am one of the founders of the Paralympics committee for the disabled in Gaza, and I have participated in many championships in many countries, such as France, Emirates, and Tunisia.
ALHELOU: The disabled athletes show a great enthusiasm and determination. Many have won gold, silver, and bronze medals in many championships worldwide.
MAZIN SARHAN, PALESTINIAN PARALYMPICS COMMITTEE (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): The javelin and discus throwing, as well as the shot put and the long jump, are the main athletics that we train for the disabled.
The first gold Olympic medal was won by a Palestinian disabled athlete in Sydney in the year 2000. The second medal was scored in Athens in 2004. And then a group of our disabled athletes won twelve medals in the Asia championship that was held in Japan in 2009.
ALHELOU: Although there is a law that deals with access and employment for disabled people in Palestine, it is not enforced. There are no curb cuts for wheelchairs, no easy access to public buildings, no public transportation equipped to deal with disabilities, and no audio traffic signals to alert the blind, to name a few.
KHALED ABU ZAID, NATIONAL CENTER FOR COMMUNITY REHABILITATION (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): Disabled people have potential, but they face many obstacles. Sadly, the local authorities in Gaza are not paying attention to the needs of the disabled and their rights.
ALHELOU: The Real News talked to an official from the Ministry of Youth and Sport in Gaza to find answers, in particular why the government is not giving the required attention to the disabled people.
AHMAD MUHAISEN, MINISTRY OF YOUTH AND SPORT (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): The Disabled Union Building was destroyed recently during the war, and many people became disabled because of the severe injuries resulting from military attacks. We are doing our best to assist the disabled in all fields, but we lack financial support to rebuild what was destroyed.
ALHELOU: And as the disabled are fighting for their rights with the help of some NGOs, a radio station called Fursan Al-Eradaâ€”or the Knights of Will in Englishâ€”is dedicated to helping disabled people through programming. The radio station, which is the first of its kind in the Middle East, was created in 2006 as a voice for people with disabilities, run by reporters with disabilities. The station’s media strategy aims to change the attitudes and perceptions about people with disabilities while also assisting them in preparing to become leaders in their communities.
Yousef Alhelou for The Real News, Gaza.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.