4 MAY 2020
Patricia is a youth advocate from Kenya who works with Plan International. Her passion revolves around safety, education, and empowerment of girls, especially those living with disabilities, and empowering parents who have given birth to children with disabilities. While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives, for people with disabilities it has made things particularly challenging.
“I am passionate about empowering children and girls with disabilities. I have a visual impairment and think that the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a serious toll on people with disabilities.
“I understand that everyone is scared about it, but for us, the reality of this disease affects us even more deeply. We are more prone to a lot of negative things.
“For example, right now families are striving to stay safe, but the question in my mind is, are children with disabilities, or even adults with disabilities being given the care they need to get through this difficult time?
“During normal times, there is already a lot of stigma associated with people with disabilities, but how much more will there be now?
“There are different kinds of disabilities and many people need to use assistive devices which are often metallic, we must keep touching them to support ourselves, yet we know that the virus can survive on surfaces. I use a white cane to help me with my movement and I know other people who use wheelchairs, we are not able sanitise these assistive devices all the time, so therein lies the risk of exposure.
“Then there is the whole issue of social distancing. Many of us depend on people to support us, which is common for people with disabilities. My heart breaks at the thought of the people with disabilities who must survive through begging on the streets. Others have been locked up inside their homes and very limited information reaches them on how they can take care of themselves during this period.
“I am particularly concerned about other girls with disabilities because if girls who have no disabilities are at risk of abuse, you can imagine how much more vulnerable we are. People can very easily take advantage of us and that scares many of us. As a girl advocate with a disability, I feel like I need to raise my voice on behalf of the many girls and children who are not able to.
“Luckily for me, I live at home with my siblings, my grandma, and my aunty, we provide a support system for one another. Everybody has a role to carry out. I help with cleaning the utensils.
“My way of coping with the uncertainty of COVID-19 has been to talk to my grandma and listen to her wise words. I also share light moments with my siblings, and I help them with their school assignments. I am grateful for the gift of family, more so during this time.
“Knowing that children with disabilities are extremely vulnerable during this period, my one true hope is that their families will stand up for them, educate them on how to take care of themselves during this pandemic and protect them.
“I hope that children with disabilities will not be abandoned and I hope that people with disabilities will be treated well, even on the streets. My biggest hope is that people will help us when they see us on the street, sometimes I need help crossing the road, I hope that people will still be kind to us. Also, that they will not discriminate against us and that nobody will violate the rights of girls with disabilities in any way.”
Emergencies, Youth empowerment, COVID-19