In emergency situations, people with disabilities are left behind, literally and figuratively. In Palestine, women with disabilities face the additional challenge of gender discrimination. The community sees disabled women and girls as dependent, weak, asexual and unable to contribute constructively to society.
The on-going conflict has drained the region of resources. The limited funds available are geared towards ensuring the very basic needs of residents. Access to medical care and equipment is increasingly difficult.
Disabled women are discouraged from pursuing studies or careers. Their prospects for marriage are diminished due to the stigma associated with disability. On a practical day-to-day level, they face numerous obstacles such as the lack of ramps for wheelchairs and limited facilities for those with vision or hearing impairment.
Stars of Hope offers support to women and girls with disabilities while pushing for policies that ensure their rights are respected and guaranteed. The organisation — the only one of its kind in Palestine — offers skills training to help increase the women’s prospects in the job market.
This includes regular training courses to women with disabilities on a wide range of topics including gender equality awareness, microfinance principles and leadership. The organisation also offers psychosocial support and peer counselling to those affected by disabilities as well as to their parents.
Stars of Hope has been working with other organisations to get the Ministry of Education to include students with disabilities in mainstream education. Following successful campaigns, some schools have been specially adapted for the requirements of people with disabilities.
Headquartered in Ramallah, the organisation has directly benefited 200 girls and women with disabilities and impacted the lives of 4,000 more.
Photos: Fadi Arouri