First Lady’s heart-warming gesture
Published On August 30, 2023 » 385 Views» By Times Reporter » Opinion
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• THE First Lady Mutinta Hichilema (left) interacts with children living with autism yesterday when she
visited the Caleb Autism Centre being constructed in Kabwe under her initiative.

FOR a long time, our society has neglected or even banished children born with various disabilities for reasons that are utmost outrageous and based on superstition and shame.
They have in a sense been treated like lepers who must be kept in isolation, away from the society and given sub-human treatment by the community.
In the olden days and in extreme cases, the children were quietly killed under the pretext that the spiritual ancestors had taken them away to another life.
For those that survived, they were denied all support save for the minimum food required to keep them alive and rarely slept in family homes. These children were never allowed to attend family gatherings.
Sadly women, who are normally prepared to do anything for a child they bear, were equally blamed and declared cursed human beings for giving birth to a children with disabilities.
Many were divorced with the approval of a male dominated society. For some strange reasons, men did not take up responsibility for children born with disabilities and heaped all blame on the women.
But even in modern times neglect and stigmatisation of children born and living with disabilities has continued. Many families struggle to raise their afflicted with different ailments and disabilities in silence.
Unfortunately, government and other public authorities have failed to adequately provide facilities that cater for children with special needs.
It is a notorious fact that health facilities are ill-prepared to tender for this disadvantaged group of our society to the extent that even training to programmes to handle such kind of ailments is insufficient.
The situation is the same in schools where facilities and teachers to deal the children with special needs rarely exist. Even training is not commonly available and few are willing to take the training where it exists.
It is therefore heart warming that the First Lady Mutinta Hichilema has taken up the initiative of helping to care for children living Autism. Children living Autism and their families have suffered in silence for too long.
Mrs Hichilema’s initiative helps to shine a spot light on the plight of the children living with Autism and is in more ways than one, a wake -up call to society to seriously begin to plan and implement programmes that will alleviate suffering of the children and their families.
The first lady’s initiative should prick our collective conscience as a nation to fight against all forms of stigma and discrimination not just against those living Autism but all those who live with different types of disabilities. The fight must begin with the family and move on to the greater society.
Our community leaders, such as clergy men and women, councillors, traditional leaders and members of parliament must take this as a priority. The plight of the people living with disabilities needs better and urgent attention.
No society can claim to be advanced and developed when some of the weakest members of their communities are neglected and left to suffer in silence. This a moral and human rights issue.
The first lady has shown the way to change and improve the lives of the neglected sections of our society.

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