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Depression of mothers whose children with disabilities were abandoned by fathers

After eight months having given birth to a child with multiple disabilities, the husband of Jeanne Niyindora started to torture her.

“I was blamed for giving birth to a child with disabilities. My husband was always telling me to reject the baby,” she narrated.

The 27-year old mother in Nduba sector of Gasabo district in Kigali city said that when she delivered the baby, she had hope that the child could sit, speak and walk like other normal children.

“We waited but in vain. The child was never able to sit and move. After realizing that our child has multiple disabilities, my husband decided to abandon me because he wanted me to throw away the child,” she said

Multiple disabilities is a term for a person with a combination of disabilities, for instance, someone with both a sensory disability and a motor disability.

The associated impairments affecting Niyindora’s child include mental disability, orthopaedic and speech impairment, as well as physical and hearing impairment.

Niyindora was always beaten and tortured by her husband and would be saved by neighbors.

The lady was married to second man who also abandoned her.

Speciose Muhorakeye, a mother from Kicukiro district is among many mothers who were abandoned by their husbands.

“The child can’t speak, can’t feed herself. It is very difficult to work and afford all needs for my child. It is a challenging situation because I have to take the child to hospital every month,” she said.

Muhorakeye said that sometimes back she used to leave the child inside the house trying to go out to look for casual work so as to be able to buy food and other basic needs.

“In every place where I go to rent a house, landlords and neighbors often stigmatise me and chase me out of the house. I started looking out for support to enable me generate income and even be able to build my own shelter,” she said.

Emerithe Uwimana, another mother said her second child has a disability.

“The baby was born premature and when my husband realized the situation, he abandoned me. I spent many months in the hospital without his support.

I had become hopeless because neighbors say I gave birth to a demon. We thank those who have supported us with food but we also need a sustainable source of income as it is not easy to get money to rent. I need my own shelter because even landlords and neighbors also stigmatize me,” she said.

Activists’ interventions

Such mothers with disabled children are in need of support to create viable small businesses so as to afford the cost to cater for their children with disabilities.

Over 500 mothers who have children with disabilities have been registered as they are in need of support to earn a living by Self-Advocacy Initiatives for people with Disabilities (S.A.I.D.) -a non Profit – organization.

CECHE Foundation, a local non-government organisation is also supporting women and their children living with disabilities in Bugesera district.

CECHE stands for Children in Education, Cultural and Health Environment.

It specialises in community inclusive development and operates in Bugesera District.

Through the organisation, mothers have managed to access economic support from Rwanda Governance Board and The United Nations Development Programme.

The organisation trains mothers on how best they can help their children.

They are skilled on how they can train their children to do physical exercises; they are also encouraged to show affection to their children because it helps them not to be overwhelmed by solitude.

It has different programmes on health and education, among others.

Epiphanie Dukunde has a 13-year-old child who is physically impaired.

She said she has been facing stigma, something she says has only made their situation worse.

“We have suffered from segregation and all other kinds of bad treatment from the community. This treatment is hard to ignore, this alone has denied us freedom to socialise with other people, and this affects our children,” she says

Children with disabilities in need of education

Through the CECHE Foundation, some of the children have managed to go back to school.

Parents are now aware of how best to raise their children; they have understood the impact of stigma against such children.

The National Union of Disability Organizations of Rwanda (NUDOR) and Special Skills Consultancy has also launched a new project to build the capacity of teachers on the newly developed teaching and learning curriculum for children with intellectual disabilities.

The three year-project dubbed: “Achieving the full potential for every Rwandan child with intellectual Disability” will offer training to teachers, headteachers who offer special need education in seven selected special schools in Rwanda on teaching and learning methodology as well as thorough assessment of child needs and the root causes of their disabilities.

Dr. Beth Mukarwego Nasiforo , Chair person of NUDOR said that the project will be implemented into three phases, where the first phase will focus on training two special schools to enable teachers on how to cater for children with intellectual disabilities, the second phase will focus on refining the curriculum while the third will focus on training teachers on friendly use of the already developed curriculum by Rwanda Education Board (REB).

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes the human rights of all children, including those with disabilities.

Fifteen per cent of the world’s population – at least one billion people – have some form of disability, whether present at birth or acquired later in life.

Nearly 240 million of them are children according to UNICEF.

According to the Rwanda Fourth Population and Housing Census, children and youth with disabilities aged 10-24 represented 2.7 per cent of the total population.

This figure comprised those with impairments related to mobility (38 per cent), learning (26 per cent), vision (13 per cent), hearing (12 per cent) and other issues such as epilepsy (12 per cent).

The 2016 National Assessment of Centers Caring for Children with Disabilities found that the numbers of children with disabilities attending or residing in institutions has actually been increasing since 2013.

In 2016, the official count in the 49 centers across the country was 4,349 children.

Nkurunziza Michel

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