It is not uncommon to hear of people living with disabilities being hidden away in dark and dirty conditions of utter poverty, locked up and forgotten, many times by their families who have no help and no means to get them proper treatment.
Above all, the fortunate ones who have been accepted by their families face official stigma and discrimination, abuse or neglect from society.
With much energy, passion, dedication, and intelligence, 22-year old Robby Maotonyane from Ramotswa Village, who is also disabled, has voluntarily taken up this challenge of assisting those living with disabilities in general. At the moment, his focus is in the South East District and surrounding areas.
As a sportsperson in athletics, Maotonyane went to Pudologong Rehabilitation Centre where he learnt Braille. He has worked with various associations like the Botswana Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted and the Paralympics Association of Botswana.
“The modern lifestyle has brought various government and non-government organisations that are established to address and represent the rights of people living with disabilities,” said Maotonyane. “But in most cases, there is poor linkage between their programs and the beneficiaries.
Most of the people living with disabilities are forced to use modern technology to assist themselves in their lives, which, to some extent is costly and may be difficult to attain.”
Maotonyane said that because of poor access to information on sexual and reproductive health and poor access to mass media messages for people with hearing and visual impairments, there are real challenges to dissemination of information, since neither billboards nor radio spots reach the deaf.
“As if that is not enough, health clinics are often difficult to access. There is a lack of counsellors who are able to use sign language. This means that deaf people do not have any privacy when they receive counselling. The disabled also receive little or limited legal support when they want to report rape or sexual abuse and the perpetrators often easily get away with it.”
To address these challenges, Maotonyane acts as a link between people living with disabilities and the government by assessing and identifying their needs in order to link them to where they could be addressed. With his efforts, a few disabled persons have been identified and helped by the South East District Council.