Blind Women in Yemen: A Journey of Suffering [Archives:2001/51/Reportage]

December 17 2001

Tahani al-Dafa’ay
Blind women live a very miserable life in terms of education, health, as well as the attitude of the society towards them.
This segment of the society deeply needs care and support so as to assume a role in society. Indeed, rehabilitating this segment and integrating them into the society need the support of both the society and government.
If some one pays a visit to societies rendering care to this groups of the society he will find that despite the aspirations of these associations to make progress in all aspects related to blind women, the non-care for this segment has bred frustration for them.
The Ministry of Social Affairs & Labor is evidently the first official body responsible for the misery of blind women and the other handicapped-related associations. The officials of this Ministry have forgotten their role in supporting these associations and preoccupied themselves with interfering in the financial affairs of these associations.
Indeed, blind women have been the victim of both the official authorities and their ignorant families. Can one imagine that a father denounces his blind young girl driving her out of home for the same reason. Another father forces his blind daughter to stay at home because he thinks that it is a dishonor to him to let people see his blind daughter.
Fatima Ahmed al-Aqel, 40, chairwomen of the al-Aman Association for Blind Women, said:I myself is blind and my sister is blind, as well. My father is a businessman and owns al-Aqel Group of Companies. I work all my time at the association since I has finished my studies at the Department of Philosophy at Cairo University. I worked for three years as at the Blind Center of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Fatima al-Aqel has also a diploma from al-Azhar University for Islamic Studies and a general diploma from the Collage of Education. Fatima said the association mainly depends on the donations of some commercial companies like Thabet Group, al-Kabous Group, Shehab Group, Mutareb Group, Mareb for Poultry, Bazzara’a Company and many other companies. She added that the association renders care to 85 people through providing them with all requirements needed in cooperation with some embassies and international organizations.
Nabila al-Wade’y, 15, the official in charge of integrating the blind women in public schools, said there were certain schools that cooperated with the blind and admitted some blind girls. In fact, so many blind girls have a good level of education and this may be one reason for being accepted.
Regarding the obstacles facing the blind girls, Nabila said the lack of resources was one of the fundamental reasons hindering their work. The available funds cannot even meet the salaries of the teaching staff. The means of transportation is also unavailable, she said. She added that blind women live in miserable condition even within their families. Moreover, the official bodies do not support them so as to live a decent life as the rest of the people.
This is a pathetic picture for blind women in Yemen since they are totally forgotten by the government and its different authorities.
The solutions proposed by the blind women themselves and their families can be summarized by a series of solutions. According to them, firstly, at the household level, families should build confidence within their blind sons and daughters. Similarly, families having blind girls should treat them equally as their normal brothers and sisters. At the official level, “special training programs” should be adopted by the Ministry of Education through the creation of a specialized entity for that. This entity will be in charge of planning, implementing, monitoring and following-up these special training programs for the different handicapped people, including blind women. The different requirements needed for the education process targeting those segments of the society should be made available. Accordingly, curricula and different kind of books printed in Braille system should be also made available.
Blind women should also be empowered so as to get jobs that match their capabilities as one way to ensure a decent life for them. Activation of the law and regulations in force will help blind women have fairer share in the society as well.