PAKISTAN: Disability Dreams!

By Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen

In an inequitable world Women have greater (19%) prevalence rate of disability rate in comparison to men who have 12% of this share. Large-scale researches have established that every minute, more than 30 women are seriously injured or disabled during labor and those 15 – 50 million women generally go unnoticed. Women also meet barriers in accessing labor markets where Men with disabilities are almost twice as likely to have jobs as Women with disabilities.

Several international frameworks, instituted to improve the condition and position of people with disabilities with a special focus on women and girls in terms of their accessibility, housing, education, health and other human rights, seem functional.

The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) recognizes in Article 27, the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others. The Article 6 of the CRPD recognizes that women and girls with disabilities face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination In the preamble to the Convention attention is drawn to the particular susceptibility of women and girls with disabilities to violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the principle of “leaving no one behind”, not only explicitly appreciates gender equality and disability as cross-cutting issues by the international community, but is an implied commitment to the empowerment of women with disabilities.

What is happening in Pakistan that decided to count these people quite late and that has found only 0.48 per cent of the total population in the recently concluded census? Pakistan has ratified CRPD; The Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, No. 46 of 1981, bears a National Policy for Persons with Disability 2002 and National Plan of Action (NPA) to implement the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, 2006.

Limited private initiatives, charities and NGOs are striving to raise awareness for the social security of disabled persons; however, others focus more on only advocacy rather than implementing change. The shining examples of late Saima Ammar, Late Dr.Fatima Shah, Late Dr. Salma Maqbool, Late Prof. Izhar Awan, Late Sarmad Tariq as well as Abia Akram, Muniba Mazarai, Romela Hameed, Maria Zia, Maria Qureshi, Muhammad Atif, Raja Imran, Lozina Shoaib, Aqsa Ali, Dr.Anam Najam and many more prominent and unsung heroes, provide inspiration to many. It is obligatory for this society to not marginalize those who are disabled because there is so much more to them than their condition. A report released by the British Council in 2014 revealed excluding Persons with Disabilities, leads to economic losses of as much as US$11.9bn to US$15.4bn in Pakistan, or 4.9% and 6.3% of the country’s GDP. The latest status is not known.

The country has dearth of the reliable data about the sex, age, regional distribution and marital status of persons with disabilities, the nature of their respective disabilities and the level of their integration, mainstreaming and inclusion in the development sector, media and public spaces.

Even if one manages to overlook the inexcusable inequalities in rural Pakistan, one cannot ignore the way management and residents behave in modern urban cities. It can be observed, that not a single city including the capital is conscious of the needs of the disabled. The insensitive and ignorant drivers often occupy the parking lots for the disabled. Even the five star hotels have no arrangements for the wheel bound ones to use the toilet. Is this a reflection of the moral decay of the society and the state that a basic human right cannot be materialized without the logo and backing of an international donor agency? In spite of being a part of the development sector and being aware of this injustice, I am still an optimistic activist who wants the state to address the practical and strategic gender needs of the disabled on a priority basis. I ardently desire that social justice must not be delayed and rights of disabled should be acknowledged immediately through empathetic actions of our governments.

Taking notice of the broad-spectrum apathy towards the disabled, for the last two decades or so, I have been talking about (in vain so far), in business chambers, universities, ministries, fancy receptions, dazzling dinners etc., the need of constructing ramps and installing voice traffic signals. To say the least, the Capital city should emerge as a gender sensitized and humane city in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The space must be assorted with the ramps, vestibules, voice traffic signals, separate walking space for those with white canes and brail menus in the restaurants.

The heartbreaking date of October 8, which represents the horrendous earthquake 2005 that changed lastingly, the lives of many thousands and left many with paralyzed limbs along with their traumatized families. The nation was affected exceedingly by that earth-shattering day but there are those who live with visible scars and are trying to keep their dignities intact to move forward with life. The earthquake highlighted the fault lines in our construction business and planning cycles; thus to commemorate all those who suffered, let us all come together and urge the state to not only comprehend the needs of all disabled persons but also take action now, not later, to ensure their accessibility, easier.

The writer is a gender expert, researcher, activist and a free thinker. She can be reached at