The covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of people globally, posing a major threat to the economic and social fabric of society. The differently able women in the Gambia were among the people hard hit by the pandemic. These women complained that they were marginalized by the State following the advent of coronavirus in the country.
Isatou Sonko, a differently-abled woman and a beggar at the Bertil Harding Highway, said covid-19 has a negative impact on her livelihood and her family.
She said when covid-19 hit the country and curfew and state of emergency ensued, life became tough for her and her family.
“I was unable to bring food home for my children. We depended on the handout given to us by our neighbors,” she said and bowed her head in her wheelchair.
Ms Sonko said it was through begging in the streets that she used to bring food on their table. She said everything changed in The Gambia following the advent of coronavirus in the country as people begun to distance themselves from her.
A visually impaired woman, Fatou Secka, believes that covid-19 brought suffering onto persons living with disability, especially women. Madam Secka said as a differently able person, she received no support from the central government during the pandemic.
She said since covid-19 entered the Gambia, she received support only once and that was from the Banjul City Council.
“During the curfew and state of emergency in the country, as a blind person, I found it difficult to move around since the one to render assistance to me has to observe social distance,” she said.
Madam Secka further stressed that the wearing of face masks was posed a challenge for her as a blind woman. She said even though she is blind, she had to go out to make ends meet for her family. The Banjul born said she had only one son and she was also a teacher at one of the blind schools in the country.
Secka urged the authorities to pass the bill on persons with disability because the bill contains all their concerns. She also called on the government to consider persons with disabilities (especially women) in decision making.
Hawa Boye, is an albino and an advocate for the rights of persons living with disability. Boye said differently able women in the country are marginalized and that the covid-19 pandemic has added to their marginalization.
She said covid-19 impacted differently able people most because most of them were not ‘self-independent’ to do many things on their own.
Madam Boye said during the lockdown, differently able women struggled as they were unable to go out to provide basic needs for their respective families.
She said some of the women that were tenants were confronted by their landlords due to their inability to pay their rent fees.
“I came to know that some of them were sent out of their rental compounds because they have not paid the rent fees for months,” she said.
Madam Bayo further said women with disabilities were vulnerable to covid-19 because they could not sit home seeing their children starving. To her, differently able women received no support from the government.
She said The Gambia federation of the disabled did not receive any support from the government during the period of the State of Public Emergency and that the support they got was from philanthropists and other NGOs.
In the area of education, Madam Bayo said as schools were shut down and education was introduced through the internet, television, and radio, differently able students especially those visually impaired and hard of hearing found it difficult to cope with the online and radio classes.
“So, the differently able students were not on the same track with their fellow counterparts,” she said.
Madam Boye tasked the government to look into the plight of differently able persons in the country and consider them as citizens with equal rights and opportunities like the rest of society.
The Covid-19 pandemic was first confirmed in the Gambia on 17th March 2020. And as of 27 April 2021, the deadly respiratory disease has claimed the lives of over one hundred people. The total confirmed cases since March 2020 is over five thousand.