Participation of women with disabilities in local government decision making structures : Unpacking the silent voice : A qualitative study conducted in Lusaka, Zambia
Abstract: Research problem: Participation of each and every person in governance system is a fundamental human right and a basic condition for democratic tenets in society regardless of their physical and socio-economic status in society. Persons with disabilities and women in particular have historically been stigmatized, discriminated and excluded in various decision making processes at global, regional, national and local levels. There is dearth literature focusing on the participation of women with disabilities in local decision making structures in Zambia hence this study. Aim: This study aims at exploring the experiences of women with disabilities with regards to their participation in local government decision making structures in Lusaka, Zambia. The study is anchored on three theoretical perspectives: feminist intersectionality, the social model of disability, and participatory development. These theoretical perspectives are complementary and provide insights to the study. Methods: A qualitative study design was adopted. Fourteen women with disabilities, four professionals and two local politicians were purposively recruited and interviewed using in-depth audio recorded semi-structured interviews. Additionally, data was also collected by reviewing the relevant documents to the context of gender, disability and Zambia. Findings: Findings of the study demonstrate that women with disabilities encounter various socio-cultural, economic, attitudinal and physical environmental obstacles with regards to their participation in decision making structures within their localities. The emerged participation obstacles following the responses from interviewees include: negative attitudes towards women with disabilities, poverty, discriminatory traditional beliefs, inaccessible infrastructure and limited social network. However, participation opportunities do exist for them to participate in decision making processes as provided for by different pieces of legislation and policy guidelines. However, there is a gap between the existence of the legal and policy framework and actual implementation of participation opportunities. This gap perpetuate the exclusion of these women in decision making structures in their localities.
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