Meet Fatima, she is working at the “Community Based Rehabilitation” (CBR), an organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities in the north of the West Bank.
“Before I worked in this field, I was somehow close-minded towards people with disabilities. I simply had no idea about them. But when I started working in the program I totally realized that there is no difference between people, just a difference in capabilities”.
Fatima and her colleagues Fayha, Samah and Deema monitor Human Rights violations, support their clients’ claims to governmental assistance and advocate for a more inclusive society. Here they are on their way to visit 4-year old Nour in his home in Jenin.
Nour (4). Fatima’s organization is assisting Nour’s family since he was a baby.
“When the doctor told us about our son’s condition during the pregnancy he did not take into account what this means psychologically for us as parents. We were in shock and we felt like we have to manage it all by ourselves. But then we found Community Based Rehabilitations who support us and make us feel that we have been compensated for many things. For example, they helped us to find a suitable kindergarten for Nour and they support us psychologically as if they were relatives or friends.”
Nour’s Father: “I would like my son to be able to meet all his needs by himself without the help from others. I did not name my son until he was 9 months old. When was getting prepared for an operation, one of the employees from the CBR asked me to write his name on a document. In that moment, I decided to name him Noureddine, which means “light of the religion” in Arabic”.
“Our program’s approach is to reach people with disabilities in their homes and to serve them through home visits. We work with all kind of disabilities and with different ages, but we focus mostly on the marginalized groups, like women, since they are facing doubled violation as being women with disabilities in a patriarchal society. We are also working with children since there are little public services for this group. In our program, we are working with 13,000 persons and 65% of them are children.”
“We discovered two cases in the old city of Jenin. Actually, they were in the same house: a father and a son. Samer had a foot amputation during the Intifada; he is a strong, self-reliant person. His son, Yamen has infantile paralysis since birth. Yamen was 6 years old when we met the family. Since then, we have coordinating between them and other institutions such as Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) in order to fulfill some of their needs, like an electric chair. Now we visit them regularly.”
Samer: “In the early morning, I go out to get groceries and whatever we need at home, and then I come back to take care of Yamen, change his clothes, set up his oxygen, if he needs it, and then take him for a walk around in the neighborhood”
Yaman’s Mother: “Yamen has become everything for him, his life, his job and his friend.”
Samer “Here we do not have many rights because we do not have a state. I think that if Yamen was from another country, he would have an institution that cares about him and his rights, but here only I and his mother are taking care of him. If we had a state we would have better situation. Before I met Fayha from CBR, I did not have any idea about disability rights, but she made me aware me of our rights”
Yamen’s mother: “I used to believe that my son is the only one with a disability, but when we met Fayha I wanted to see other people with disabilities, and she invited us to all meetings and celebrations, so I tell her anything Yamen needs”
From left to right: Fatima, Fayha and Deema.
Deema: My main job is to monitor human rights violations against people with disabilities. To do so, I coordinate with case workers like Fayha and Fatima. They inform me about specific rights violations and we monitor them. For example when the school in some village refuses to integrate a child with a disability. In that case, we would visit the child’s family to know what kind of problem they have, and then we go to school to understand their reasons. Also, we fill a form about the case and the kind of violation and send it to our legal consultants. They raise it directly with the violator. For example, if there is a problem with a school, we raise it with the ministry of education”.
Fatima: “We are cooperating with summer camps to change their negative attitude towards children with disabilities. Like this, there were 55 camps that integrated children with disabilities. Some of the camps’ managers were also people with disabilities and one relative of each child with a disability participated in the camp and in all activities”.
At the Haddad Hotel in Jenin:
Through their advocacy, Fatima and her team encouraged the Haddad Hotel to become the first barrier free hotel in the northern West bank. They are working hard to multiply this success and to make more public spaces accessible for people with disabilities
Fun Park next to the Haddad Hotel in Jenin.
Fatima: “we are also, focusing on the mental disability cases because they do not have enough services, there are no qualified centers for vocational training and there is only one diagnosis center in all Palestine.” “We will continue to work with this rights-based approach to also protect people with mentally disabilities, since there are no safe places for them, either they are in houses or streets. Also, we try to protect women with mentally disabilities against sexual and domestic violence”
“We are also working on organizing people with disabilities into self-contribution groups in order to improve their knowledge about their rights, and to educate them about international laws related to disabilities. We want to enable them to ask for their rights and help them to communicate with the local offices, schools and civil organizations in order to include people with disabilities cases in these institutions”
Fatima and her daughter Heba (8) in their garden.
“We consider disability rights as part of human rights. We also work on the women’s rights and women’s participation in the local elections. We wanted women with disabilities to be members of clubs and local bodies. In addition, we worked on the child rights and we always focus on the children with disability because they are least lucky in society.”
Fatima’s husband Anwar at the entrance of their house. Anwar also works as a human rights defender for people with disabilities.
“I am convinced that people with disabilities are part of the society, and we have to work to end the negative attitude towards them, to realize that they are successfully contributing in this society – that is my main goal.”