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Getting to Zero: Forum for the Development of Youth with Disability (FDYD)

As part of AWID’s Getting to Zero project today we are profiling the work of the Forum for the Development of Youth with Disability (FDYD). The Forum is a non-profit organization for disabled youth based in Malawi. Below we also share Fatima’s Story. Fatima is the program coordinator FDYD’s HIV and AIDS program and here she shares a bit about how she came to understand her disability and her rights.

Forum for the Development of Youth with Disability

Forum for the Development of Youth with Disability (FDYD) is a non-profit organization for youth with disabilities based in Malawi. The organization is based in Bangwe Township in the city of Blantyre and was established in November 2009.

The FDYD works to prevent HIV/AIDS among youth with disability and mitigate its impacts through various mitigation measures. One of its objectives is to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS issues amongst youth with disability in order to ensure that those infected and affected by the pandemic are properly equipped to deal with their unique situation. It also works to promote the education of youth with disabilities through various learning opportunities, and build the capacity of youth with disability to be self reliant through economic empowerment, mentoring, counseling and life skills training. FDYD advocates for the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in decision-making processes.

Our organization envisions an informed society that values rights of people with disability and promotes the full realization of their capacities and potential. Forum for the development of youth with disability exits to promote human rights of people with disability with specific focus on the youth and creation of a society free from discrimination.

We work with both HIV infected and non-infected youth and people living with disabilities between 7-35 years old through our various programs. The youth that we work with are encouraged to be creative and have brought new energy and exciting ideas to the organization. We have established a project where we sell slippers made out of beads that our youth hand-make to generate some income for themselves. Some of this money is allotted towards HIV treatment and daily care including having a full balanced diet. We also conduct awareness raising campaigns on issues of HIV/ AIDS as an opportunity for our youth living with disability to speak for themselves and educate society through drama, poems, and art drawings on the various forms of discrimination faced by people who are HIV positive living with disabilities.

Since the establishment of FDYD, we have witnesses a reduction in the stigma and discrimination towards people with disability infected with HIV. More young women with disabilities have been able to access HIV drugs as they gained more awareness about the importance of getting tests and seeking medical care.

Hospital officials are more informed on how to interact people with disabilities receiving counseling on HIV. The belief that people with disability could not contract AIDS is now being reconsidered and stigma towards disability as a disease itself is being questioned.

Fatima’s Story

Fatima is the program coordinator FDYD’s HIV and AIDS program. Below she tells the story of how she came to understand her disability and her rights.

I was born in a moderate family of four, three of whom are girls. My brother and I are the youngest and we were both born with a disability. While my father is a farmer working in our home village, Chikwawa, to provide us with food, my mother is a businesswoman living in the shire valley where we stayed with her. Although taking care of two people with disability is a difficult thing, my mother is the sole caregiver to my brother and I since my sisters are now staying with their own newly formed families. My mother’s daily care for me has brought us closer together and I consider my brother to be my best friend. I grew up in an extended family where we stayed with cousins, aunts and uncles which helped me understand the concept of ‘family’ as greater than a man and women living with their children.

At first, it was difficult for me to understand my situation because the dominant beliefs in our culture led me to believe that I was bewitched by other people. It was only when I was introduced to Cheshire Homes Society that I began to understand disability issues. It helped me to accept myself and realize that I have rights as a part of society. Even my father carried the same belief that someone had done something bad to us to be born with a disability. The Cheshire Homes Society helped my brother and I open up our minds to our potential.

I went to a community day secondary school where I obtained my MSCE certificate and continued to complete a diploma in business administration. I also had the chance to attend a course in sports where I was trained as a coach in sports for youth with disabilities organized by the Norwegian sports association in 2007 and 2010. I also attended an online training organized by CREA on issues of   disability and sexuality rights. In April of this year, I was also on the YFA advisory board for the 12th International AWID Forum. I attended the FLAMBI 2012, which took place in Kenya from 5-9 November and am also working with the Nanzikambe Arts Theatre where they are training me as an actress.

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