CHOMBA MUSIKA, Lusaka
THERE are currently over a billion people with disabilities around the world â€“ that is about 15 percent of the global population.
In Zambia, about two million women and men, or 15 percent of the countryâ€™s population, have a disability, according to the World Health Organisation.
A greater proportion of people with disabilities live in rural areas where access to basic amenities is limited.
In 2005, the employment rate of persons with disabilities was 45.5 percent of the total number of disabled people, compared with an employment rate of 58 percent of persons without disabilities.
A 2000 Census of Population and Housing, which collected data on disability, established that a large percentage of disabled people were self-employed, while very few were employers. The census also found that over 80 percent were employed in agriculture.
Majority of Zambians with disabilities live in poverty and generally have unproportionally low literacy levels compared with persons without disabilities. Disabled persons often have to resort to street begging as a means of survival.
To address the plight of the disabled, the government has enacted a number of laws and formulated policies on disabilities, including affected peopleâ€™s rights to productive and decent work, to basic services workersâ€™ compensation, social security, and entrepreneurship development.
But government alone cannot manage to address the plight of all the two million people currently living with disabilities in the country.
In light of this, a non-profit making organisation, Shiloh Arts Training Institute, has embarked on an ambitious programme to train 1,000 unemployed women and youths in film-making, with a bias towards the disabled.
After undergoing the film making course, the institute helps the beneficiaries produce true life story short movies for sell at K10, only.
Interestingly, the story lines for the short movies are aimed at sensitising the community on the need to respect the rights of disabled people.
So far, the institute has trained 300 women and youths in Chawama, Kanyama, Chazanga, John and Howard townships in Lusaka. They have all produced short films which they sell and use the money to support their well-being and re-invest in film production.
Recently, Shiloh Arts Training Institute in partnership with Tikumbukani Support Group, held a three-week film-making training workshop for 16 women and children in Chazanga Township.
The topics covered in the training included cinematography, script writing, theatre personnel, acting, business skills, film directing and practice in short film-making.
After the training, the now fully baked 16 film makers and actors, produced three must-watch short movies titled The Tresspass, The Abandon and The Trader.
Speaking during the screening of the three movies and graduation of the 16 women and youths, Shiloh Arts director Evans Chisenga said the institute will remain committed to empowering people with disabilities by imparting in them film making skills.
The institute also wants to demystify the notion that the film making industry is a preserve of the elite.
â€œPeople think film making is for those with a lot of money and that is why we are training the vulnerable and disabled people so that they can use their acting and film directing skills to make a living,â€ Pastor Chisenga said.
The sight of disabled people begging on the streets troubles Pastor Chisanga who has pledged to do everything possible to keep them away from the streets.
He wants them to acquire skills that will make them self-reliant.
â€œThe Bible says a child should not be given fish but a net so that he can catch his own fish, and this is why we are empowering people with these skills so that they can make a living and stop begging on the streets,â€ the clergyman said.
He is confident that the film making skills will in the long run help reduce poverty among disabled people, who are more susceptible to poverty than those without disabilities.
The linkage between poverty and disability is strong. Poverty causes disability through malnutrition, poor health care, and dangerous living conditions.
Disability can cause poverty by preventing the full participation of disabled people in the economic and social activities in their communities.
As Shiloh Arts Training Institute is striving to end poverty among disabled people, lack of financial resources is hampering the instituteâ€™s quest to achieve its goals.
â€œWe are eager to extend our film-making training to more people but we do not have enough resources, and our appeal is for any stakeholders to come on board and assist us with funds,â€ Pastor Chisenga said after presenting film making certificates to the 16 women and youths.
He urged the public to support the initiative by buying copies of the movies produced by disabled people.
Earlier, Tikumbukeni Support Group secretary Ruth Mugala said her organisation will continue to work with partners like Shiloh Arts Training Institute which are committed to empowering women with skills that will enable them fend for disabled children.
â€œThe short films the women produced will be sold to help raise funds for the education and skills support, clothing, blankets and mattresses for children with disabilities,â€ Ms Mugala, who was one of the beneficiaries of the film making training, said.
The Tikumbukeni charity is currently supporting about 80 women and children living with disabilities.
The first scenes to be beamed were those from the 55-minute â€˜The Trespassâ€™ which features a cruel mother who wanted to kill her son because he was born disabled.
As the silent audience comprising mainly children and mothers watched the movie, some parents were heard moaning as the cruel mother almost strangled her disabled son whom she had been hiding from the public.
CHOMBA MUSIKA, Lusaka