Original Research

Restricted participation: Drivers, experiences and implications of disability stigma in Ethiopia

Esther Breffka, Caroline Jagoe, Susan P. Murphy, Belestie B. Tsegaw
African Journal of Disability | Vol 12 | a1085 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v12i0.1085 | © 2023 Esther Breffka, Caroline Jagoe, Susan P. Murphy, Belestie B. Tsegaw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 May 2022 | Published: 23 January 2023

About the author(s)

Esther Breffka, Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland; and Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, Technology, Maths and Engineering, Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Caroline Jagoe, Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Susan P. Murphy, Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, Technology, Maths and Engineering, Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Belestie B. Tsegaw, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Public Health, Health Care, Addis Continental Institute of Public Health, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Department of Psychology, Faculty of Behavioral Science, Social Studies and Humanities, University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia


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Abstract

Background: Community-based inclusive development (CBID) acknowledges society’s critical role in supporting the active participation of persons with disabilities. However, research on how this approach relates to the context-sensitive socially situated barriers of disability stigma is underexplored.

Objectives: This study aimed to understand the drivers and experiences of disability stigma in Ethiopia, from the perspective of persons with disabilities engaged in CBID programmes, and to establish how disability stigma acts as a barrier to participation.

Methods: An inductive methodological approach guided the research design. Mixed methods were used including a narrative review of disabilities studies literature, 16 semi-structured interviews with persons with disabilities, and a quantitative survey of 970 persons with disabilities across three communities in Ethiopia.

Results: Informed by theories of epistemic justice, this study identified specific indicators of meaningful participation and examined how these relate to experiences of disability stigma. The study found that the participation of adults with disabilities in society is restricted across different areas of life. Misconceptions about the causes of disability and social perceptions regarding the capacities of persons with disabilities are found to exacerbate stigma and act as a barrier to participation.

Conclusion: Targeted efforts to challenge internalised norms and harmful beliefs within CBID approaches are required to address disadvantages arising from embedded disability stigma.

Contribution: This study makes conceptual, empirical and practical contributions that advance insights into the relationship between disability stigma and participation in Ethiopia and the dimensions of epistemic justice relevant to understanding the nature and drivers of disability stigma.


Keywords

disability; disability stigma; community-based inclusive development; disability inclusion; social inclusion; epistemic injustice; disability rights; participation.

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