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#WhatWomenWant

*Beyond Disability; Addressing violence against women with disabilities at the workplace!

Post by Nyasha Museruka,

During
this 16days of activism(25th November- 10th December) ,and throughout the 2019, I  have been reflecting on the abuse that
 women go through..I mean all women in their diversity!.  Why does violence against women and girls have
to so normalized in society? I thought at some point that was the qualification for
one to be  accepted in society…… As a young woman with aspirations, goals dreams, hopes and visions, I am all too
clear on how this normalization gets seeded at a tender age. It all starts ‘playing
house’, a rite of passage harmlessly girls must go through. Then it goes to imitating
our mothers, wearing their oversized dresses and shoes, taking certain roles
and professions (often less paid and care giving kind). I didn’t know that these
roles and professions may come up with a huge prize to pay—psychological,
physical, emotional, sexual, verbal abuse, only to mention some. Mainly women
suffer the consequences of GBV at workplaces. That is where one is told you
can’t do this job because you are a woman and to add salt to the wound with a
disability. Verbal and emotional abuse happens every day at workplaces, if I
complain that I can’t do this work, my colleagues or superiors will ask you
“Why are you here? Better stay at home and do what women were created for”.
When people see a woman with a disability, they see what she cannot do first
not the other way around.

At a middle stage in my life I developed a
spine condition called spinal scoliosis. This saw some of the dreams and
aspirations I had shattered! The condition limited me to do the job of my dreams(hence
ending up pursuing another profession. Growing up I wanted to be a policewoman,
but I ended up being a teacher because my physical stature did not meet the
requirements of one joining the police force. I couldn’t run or do the training
due to my condition. Despite joining other profession, it was not all rosy. 
I have had to deal with all forms of violence, having a disability has paved an
easier way for the perpetrators. You will be told it is a privilege to get a
job as a woman with a disability to get a job, so you have to return the favor
by paying “in kind” or lose the job.

This
is when I realized it’s a tough world, being victimized because you are a woman
and double tragedy because you are a woman with a disability. One fellow woman
told me that even if you get the job it would be a window dressing, you are not
supposed to participate meaningfully because you got a job whilst being
disabled. You will be their glory but not for your expertise. The tokenism is
suffocating!!

Violence against women and girls at the workplace has been so casually
accepted as normal!!,  I am here to
confirm that being disabled and young triples the ordeal. With all the myths
surrounding disabilities the perpetrators go unnoticed and no one reports the
cases. This needs to stop immediately! We need to have a world where women and
girls are safe and free from violence at workplaces. Women have a right and
should be able to access equal opportunities to realize their full potential
regardless of their differences. I have potential, skills and expertise to
offer at my workplace, so let it be safe! I
have chosen to make lemonade out of the lemons thrown at me. But not every
woman has been able to and women and girls should not always resort to making
lemonades out of lemons!!

I’m grateful to organizations of women and for women who has awakened the
activist and the fighting spirit in me to rise up and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Violence
against women and girls at workplaces has to stop. I know what I want is a JOB
not SEX for a job.

Here are my 2 cents for how to make workplaces safe for women with disabilities.

- See the person first before the disability. Focus on what I have to offer rather than what I cannot do.

-  Give women spaces and opportunities to prove
themselves. One cannot prove she is capable by being abused to obtain a job.
Men create an equal environment at the workplace because we all can do it if
given the opportunity.

- Working policies that
protects women’s interests and rights at workplaces should be put in place. 

Ms. Nyasha Museruka is part of the ATHENA Network as the #WhatGirlsWant Country focal point for Zimbabwe. Nyasha is a passionate gender/SRHR/disability activist. Nyasha is a teacher by profession. She has been into the journey of advocacy since 2012 up to date. She has been in many forums like ICASA, ICPD and SARSYC representing young women with disabilities as well as AGYW at large.