Jahanara, Haneen, and Bajram live in very different countries, with very different lives.
But they all have one very important thing in common – their dreams for the future.
Today, for International Day of People with Disabilities, Islamic Relief is looking at the impact of disability on life and futures, but is also arguing that people should not be seen in terms of their disability, but because of the people they are.
Jahanara, 47, lives in Bangladesh with her five children. She said: “I am a disabled woman. In spite of this situation, I manage to work as a pepper picker. I am paid TK 20 (around GBP 17 pence, or USD 26 cents) a day. In the next one and a half months, it will close. Then we will work in the fields if anybody calls; if they do not call, I will have little to do.”
Across the world, one in seven people have a disability, but in countries with higher levels of poverty, this increases to 22 per cent – more than one in five.
Islamic Relief meets many people through its work, whether through handing out a food pack or supporting them as they grow up. When we roll out programmes, we assess the needs of people, making sure we are offering the right kind of help to the people who need it most.
Quite often, people who have some sort of disability are among those who need support. Disability and poverty are linked as disability can be caused by a lack of proper medical care, poor nutrition, violence, unsafe housing and injuries at work.
Forty-five year old Bajram would work despite his disability, but there is a high level of unemployment in Kosova, and he cannot find a job.
Haneen*, from Syria, is 10 years old and will need treatment for the next five years if she is not to be permanently disabled. She was hurt when her father threw himself over her to protect her from bombs being dropped on their home.
When Haneen and her family arrived as refugees in Lebanon in 2012, she was unable to walk or move her legs.
Islamic Relief is supporting disabled children in Lebanon, and Haneen now wears special medical boots and has regular physiotherapy to help her body mend, but she is most concerned about getting a good education.
“The most important thing for me is going to school again,” she said. “I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go to school after being disabled, but now I am getting better and I will walk and walk to reach my dreams.”
Islamic Relief believes that people with a disability and their communities should be included in and contribute to the development of their own communities, and those who are most vulnerable to exclusion should be empowered.
The Qur’an makes very little direct reference to people who are disabled, but instead refers to people who are disadvantaged, and argues time and again for justice, and supporting those who need it.
“Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards East or West. The truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some of their wealth, however much they cherish it, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travellers and beggars, and to liberate those in bondage; those who keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; who keep pledges whenever they make them; who are steadfast in misfortune, adversity, and times of danger. These are the ones who are true, and it is they who are aware of God.” (Al-Baqara)
Islamic Relief is part of a three-year project Age and Disability Capacity Programme (ADCAP) to improve responses and inclusion of people with a disability in humanitarian response following conflict or a natural disaster. We work with people who have a disability in many countries, including in Chechnya, Tunisia, and Yemen.
*Name has been changed for child protection purposes.