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Breaking the Barriers: Going beyond stereotypes and stigmas of people with disabilities

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” The only thing worse than being blind,  is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller.

Dec 3:  International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Experience
There are only two types of people in the world. Those with who are disabled. And those who are temporarily abled.”

Persons with disabilities in impoverished nations like Tanzania are among of the most neglected and vulnerable individuals in the world. They do not enjoy equal access, and sometimes no access at all to transportation, employment, education, social and political participation. And even basic services like access to clean water and sanitation. Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) service in Tanzania…

By Msafiri Msedi, Mwanza, Tanzania

 

Disability is the umbrella term for impairments that limit human activity. It can either be acquired at birth, old age, violence, disease, or in an accident.

There is a vicious cycle between poverty and Disability, Poverty may increase the risk of disability and disability may increase the risk of Poverty. Poverty may lead to the onset of a health conditions associated with disability for example low birth weight, malnutrition, furthermore lack of clean water or adequate sanitation, unsafe work and living conditions has lead to occurrences of disability and injuries..

As a supporter in Disability inclusion issues, I advocate for a break in this link through the systematic inclusion of disability within all development processes.
At a young age, I contracted Polio when I was four years old; however I did not let it limit my mind and body, personally, I have an experience of working and serving a Community of Persons living with disabilities in Tanzania. And as a person with a disability myself, I am passionate about disability rights and human rights issues in general. It is also because of this that I am aware of the existing situations and realities faced by PWDs in Tanzania;

Despite having ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and enacting the Law on Persons with Disabilities in 2010, Tanzania still faces many challenges on enacting disability-related policy.

What is written in the act and policy does not correspond with the “on the ground” reality. Determined to make a difference, I started raising awareness and advocating at the grass-roots level for Persons with Disabilities in Tanzania and founded Tusaidiane Disabilities (TDRCT) https://tusaidiane.page.tl/  in 2013 to analyze policy, create awareness, advocate for change and influence policies to support PWDs in Tanzania.

Insights
I take great honor to get a chance of sharing with you some thoughts about the Situation of Persons with Disability in Tanzania with particular focus on Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) and Disability. Taking into consideration that Persons with disabilities have a right to good health and are entitled to whatever services that are provided in the society.


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Overcoming obstacles and misunderstandings
Different reports are written quoting that persons with disabilities are among the majority who are forced to have unhygienic practice because of lack of accessible WASH facilities. As for myself, I am one among those individuals who faced the situation and I still face and observe the existing situation.

I explain this because am one among the victim and survival on issues related with Persons with disability in different areas including issues related with WASH, I was fortunate to have parents who understood the value of hygiene as from my childhood my mother used to prohibit me from using an unhygienic bathroom and toilet which are occupied by able-bodied people, for years my mother used to carry a special container for helping me to ease myself because I could not access the unfriendly restroom.

When I moved away from home and joined secondary school studies; the school toilets were very unhygienic. Because it was a boarding school located in remote area, I used to use an optional of finding a place in the nearby bush to ease myself and I developed a plan of conditioning my body to adopt the situation of going for this service of defecation in three times in a week or during the night hour where I cannot be seen by people and for urination I used to find any suitable place outside the majority toilet as long as it is hygienic for my side, that is; I had to do open defecation despite of knowing the side effect for the environment, it was not ease situation; I am grateful as the bush was a farming place so defecation was a part of increasing manure to the field in a wrong way, however that was the situation which faced me and that was my creativity to adopt the situation. With such condition, I succeeded to finish 4 years studies despite of the fact that the environment was not suitable for me and no one cared for me as well in such matter.

When I joined university taking my bachelor I experienced the same situation, the environment was not accessible and unfriendly, as a grown up person it was hard to keep on practicing the routine of secondary school, instead I asked the dean of student to allow me to take one room of a toilet which was still not accessible but was cleaned and others were prohibited to use t, for privacy purpose, I used it as a bathroom and toilet at the same time, even that situation was challenging for me as I used to face a lot of infection like amoeba and typhoid as my WASH was not in acceptable standard.

Such conditions still exist in many Tanzanian schools forcing many children with disability to fail to attend school or fail to finish studies as they fail to adopt with the existing situation despite of the fact that Water and sanitation Hygiene (WASH) are human rights.

 

Looking back and going forward
As I look back and the present situation, I observe a lot of changes that are happening in our communities, I am eager to use this story to address the WASH gap with a particular focus on SDG goal number 6 and its relation with PWDS; that is Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) and Disability. Taking into consideration that the world has already moved away from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) toward the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in the MDGs Persons with disabilities were not included and consequently excluded from many development initiatives and funding streams. In contrast, the SDGs include persons with disabilities. I am optimistic that this post is a perfect platform for influencing decision-makers, policy-makers, community members, and family members to advocate for inclusive and accessible WASH.

Observations
A lot of places in Tanzania which are involved in offering restroom services in public places like recreations places, worshipping places, public places, schools restaurants or bars in most cases its conditions are very poor for PWDs, they posses narrow doors without ramp which is hard for wheelchair user to access, there is no good supervision in terms of hygiene and clearness, and its infrastructure are built without consideration of inclusion for PWDs; for instance those with poor vision or visual impairment they report to experience accessibility challenges in these toilets. Moreover, some of the Washroom environment tend to drive out desire of PWDs to use them when the tiles are wet as it can lead to slippery of calipers when a person pass through it. Many of PWDs have reported that they fail to get washroom service on time or they completely fail to get such service when it is far away or it is not accessible or not hygienic, in nut shell they experience a lot of trouble which sometime force them to abstain from responding to natural call or even conditioning themselves not to eat or drink water when travelling long distances by buses for instance so that they should not go to bathroom frequently, such condition affect even their health in a negative way.

Action
Persons with disabilities should not have to be the most vulnerable if attitudes, systems, infrastructure, and services in society are user-friendly and accessible. It could benefits more PWDs if community members, local government authority, faith based organization and NGOs collaborate and opens the door to transforming a community into a more welcoming and supportive environment for Persons with disabilities.

We need to advocate for inclusive WASH by prohibiting the operations of any public toilet that is not accessible to PWDs so as to build the culture of recognizing the dignity of PWD this can help in the process of building their self-esteem as human beings, Inclusive WASH can ensure better access to education, improve their participation in social life and create greater livelihood opportunities. Most importantly, Inclusive WASH matters because it recognizing the value and dignity of each person created in the image of God and taking actions to express this concretely. Furthermore, PWDs should be empowered to advocate for inclusive WASH and take advantage of opportunities to become agents of change.


We believe that every child deserves clean water. Let’s cast the net further to make sure all children – including those with disabilities – know that they are equally loved, valued and respected, and can enjoy this basic human right!

 

About the Author

Msafiri Msedi. Msafiri is a Tanzanian who works with the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance in Tanzania, where he is presently responsible for Promoting and Protecting Human Rights. Msafiri is an alumni of Future Generations University, having obtained his Masters in Community Change. He is passionate about human rights, disability & diversity, empowerment, and information technology. He has worked as a volunteer with organizations for PWDs, and is a founder of the NGO called “Tusaidiane Disabilities Resources and Charity Organization of Tanzania” (TDRCT), which is registered to work in mainland Tanzania. The Swahili word “tusaidiane” means “let’s help each other.”  Currently, Msafiri works in the organization as an Executive Secretary. You can reach him through email: msafirimsedi@gmail.com

For more on Msafiri, click here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/msafiri-msedi-58b55517/

For more on Tusaidiane Disabilities Resources and Charity Organization of Tanzania, click here: http://tusaidiane.page.tl/

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Editorials

As the Golden Globes lose their luster, can we create a better version of Hollywood?

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Something interesting is happening in Hollywood. People are walking away from the Golden Globe Awards.

And for good reason.

Anyone who has ever worked in the filthy abyss of Hollywood, New York, or any major entertainment city will know first hand how these systems work. Sycophants, parasites and moguls and talent agents willing to step all over each other just for the sake of another prize. Some will even kill for a shot at the brass ring.  And industry divided cannot succeed.

The only good thing I found in the Golden Globes was watching Ricky Gervais lampoon the stars and their handlers from the stage. Bravo to Gervais, it doesn’t make a difference what you think of him, afterall, he had something that most of Hollywood doesn’t have. Balls. Guts. And a way of delivering amusing reality dosed insults to their face only to find he’s been re-instated as the show host for the next years showing.

 

The annual Golden Globes ceremony has been unable to find a broadcasting partner or any celebrities willing to present or collect its awards after a Hollywood boycott over its diversity and ethics scandal, resulting in a pared-down event with the emphasis on philanthropy.

According to Variety, the Globes’ talent bookers have failed to persuade any big Hollywood figures to attend the 2022 edition of the awards ceremony, a hitherto glittering annual event that traditionally kicked off the lucrative awards season. In March 2021 more than 100 public relations firms announced they would withdraw cooperation with the Globes, a series of high-profile Hollywood figures, including Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson, made stinging public criticisms, and TV network NBC cancelled its broadcast of the 2022 edition. (-The Guardian)

 
eguardian.com/film/2022/jan/09/golden-globes-lose-their-shine-as-a-listers-shun-unethical-ceremony

But this years showing not only lacked the luster of Hollywood today, but doesn’t even have a Network or Livestream to cover it.  I guess we’ll have to rely on celeb Twitter Feeds.

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Arts

How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

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By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened.

 

When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

In the film we see copies of and hear quotations from and analysis of much of what has been uncovered, and learn that thousands of pages exist that nobody has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the U.S. military or CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points.” While unknown quantities of this sort of thing remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 films and many thousands of TV episodes have been given the Pentagon treatment, and many others have been handled by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for allowing the use of military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is the denial of those things.

But the military is not as passive as this might suggest. It actively pitches new story ideas to movie and TV producers. It seeks out new ideas and new collaborators who might bring them to a theater or laptop near you. Act of Valor actually began life as a recruitment advertisement.

Of course, many movies are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many that wanted it and were denied, managed to get made anyway, sometimes at much greater expense without the U.S. tax dollars paying for the props. But a huge number of movies are made with the military. Sometimes the initial movie in a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes voluntarily follow the military’s line. Practices are normalized. The military sees huge value in this work, including for recruitment purposes.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Yet, if you watch enough of what is produced with military involvement you’ll imagine that using and surviving nuclear war is perfectly plausible. This goes back to the original Pentagon-Hollywood invention of myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and runs right up through military influence on The Day After, not to mention the transformation — paid for by people who throw a fit if their tax dollars help prevent someone freezing on the street — of Godzilla from a nuclear warning to the reverse. In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them. We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propagandizing the U.S. public, which might make such a disclosure a confession of a crime. I would add that since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has required that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

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Editorials

The Grinch That Stole Christmas

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Back in the mid 70’s as my wife and I were starting our photography business Wally Miller, a successful local businessman, invited us to his office to offer help in the form of business advice. He asked only that we bring a financial statement and of course we complied.  The business startup process was new to us and after two years we were still losing money, and there it was in plain sight on the financial statement.  Wally welcomed us warmly and after a few minutes of careful study of our financials offered this observation, “You have no bad debts.”

Naturally I took this as a compliment.  I was proud that we had no bad debts, but that is not what Wally meant.  He elaborated, “If you have no bad debts that means that your credit is too tight and that translates into lost business.” His meaning was clear.  To be successful, really successful, you have to accept reasonable losses.  It’s the very nature of business.  If you want 100% certainty there can be no risk and without risk there can be no profits.

There’s a lesson in this thinking for Joe “McFuqwad” Manchin, the tight-ass, penny-pinching Grinch ruining Christmas for every American under the cover of “fiscal responsibility.”  His staffers gave us a look into his rationale, revealing two of the real reasons behind Joe’s decision to be the big NO.

Apparently Manchin believes that giving money to the poor in the form of a child tax credit is unwise because in his view, many will spend the extra dollars on drugs.  Likewise he is opposed to paid leave, stating that people will just call in sick and then go off deer hunting.

Now let’s all agree that in a free society, there are good and bad actors.  No law can legislate what is in the hearts of men.  No law can dictate integrity or honor.  If that were the case, there would be no GOP, no Jim Jordan, no Ted Cruz, no Matt Gaetz, No Marjorie Taylor Green, no Lauren Boebert. You get my drift, but I digress.

Once you agree to recognize that the actions of individuals are beyond your control, you must the adjust your decisions and subsequent actions to affect the greatest good for the majority.  Charity benefits the worthy and unworthy alike, without discrimination.  To withhold benefits from the worthy because there will always be unworthy recipients is to succumb to the devil’s play, a game of reduction that punishes all for the few.

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