President Abdel Fatah al Sisi with Mahmoud Shalaby during WYF closing ceremony, November 9, 2017 - Press Photo
CAIRO – 9 December 2018: Eyes closed shut on a single bed in a small apartment, the ‘invisible man’ slept. The air smelt of abandonment and solitude. Life could not have visited this place in a long time; joy never stayed here.
Individuals living with different forms of disabilities are often marginalized and ostracized.
Eyes open, staring at the ceiling, a long day awaited him. Insecurities, helplessness and pain filled the heart and the mind of the invisible citizen; everyday was a challenge for him. Nothing came easily.
The struggle has never been the problem; being invisible was, but this is no longer the case in Egypt. The National Council for Disability Affairs was especially created to make sure that those living with disabilities are heard.
The invisible man is one of hundreds of thousands of citizens living in Egypt with disabilities, although the conditions they face are not as harsh as they once were—after all the past few years have seen some tremendous steps forwards, their life is far from perfect.
“The State shall guarantee the health, economic, social, cultural, entertainment, sporting and educational rights of persons with disabilities strive to provide them with job opportunities, allocate a percentage of job opportunities to them, and adapt public facilities and their surrounding environment to their special needs. The State shall also ensure their exercise of all political rights and integration with other citizens in compliance with the principles of equality, justice and equal opportunities,” Article 81 of Egypt’s 2014 constitution reads.
Some 15 percent of the entire global population lives with a type of disability; four percent of those experience grave difficulties in mobility, functioning and going about their day-to-day activities. Sadly, the percentage of people who have some form of disability has increased due to aging populations and the spread of endemics or specific diseases in some countries, according to the WHO.
Most of those who have disabilities around the world are women, according to the World Health Organization (WHO); while, 80 percent of those living with disabilities are in developing countries, according to the UN Development Program (UNDP). Moreover, 20 percent of the brave individuals living with disabilities are among the world’s poorest, as per The World Bank; this percentage seems to be on the rise, according to statistics.
During his keynote speech at The World Bank’s conference on disability, Dr Amartya Sen made a highly important point: The poverty line for the poor who are living with disabilities should take into account the extra costs and expenses that they have as a result of their condition. Supporting this is a study that was carried out in the United Kingdom that concluded that the poverty rate for disable individuals is 23.1 percent and 17.9 percent for non-disabled individuals, suggesting that people are pushed into poverty as a result of the extra expenses they incur as a direct consequence of their condition. As the study shows, once these expenses are taken into account, the poverty rate for people with disabilities jumps up to 47.4 percent; a worrying, and rather, unfair situation seems to be at hand.
Sen explains that there is a two-way link between poverty and disability, one that is akin to a vicious cycle, with poverty feeding disability and disability feeding poverty. It seems that those who are stuck in the poverty trap, are also more likely to fall victim to disabilities. This is due to the poor nutrition, and barriers to education and employment, as well as poor healthcare, that the less fortunate are more likely to face.
Still, individuals living with disability are more likely to be victim to violence or rape, increasing the likelihood for them to become even more ostracized and marginalized. According to a study conducted in the United Kingdom in 2004, having a disability also means that one is less likely to be able to get legal protection or preventative cautionary measures. This is not simply the case in Britain, it is also the case in most countries.
What is the situation like in Egypt?
Eight Articles of the 2014 constitution directly and indirectly address the rights of individuals living with all forms of special needs in Egypt. Moreover, Law No. 10 of 2018, which was issued by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and approved by the Egyptian Parliament, also furthered the rights of individuals with special needs.
Law No. 10 cemented the government’s commitment towards people living with disabilities, stipulating that they should not be discriminated against as a result of their condition, that they should have dull human rights, like any other individual who is not living with a disability, and that they have the right to make their own decisions and express themselves in whichever way they see fit. It also mentioned that those who are living with special needs have the right to education, work and public facilities/services, like everyone else.
Importantly, Law No. 10 of 2018 pointed out that there is a need to ensure access to all public facilities and services, including the fitting of ramps, among other things.
Moreover, Article 10 of the Rehabilitation Act No. 39 of 1975, amended by Law No. 49 of 1981, states, “Five percent of the total number of employees in each unit of the state administration body, public bodies and public sector shall be allocated for disabled recipients of rehabilitation certificates, and these units fulfil the percentage referred to using the disabled residents living within their circles and registered in the related Manpower offices.”
Children are especially looked after in Egypt, with Article 80 of the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, stating, “The State shall ensure the rights of children with disabilities, their rehabilitation and their integration in the society.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi directed to dedicate 2018 to people with special needs as they represent a potential power in the Egyptian society that needs care and support.
Thus, governmental and regional organizations seek to hold various partnerships with different civil society organizations to improve the conditions of people with special needs.