Original Research

The complexity of rural contexts experienced by community disability workers in three southern African countries

Margaret Booyens, Ermien van Pletzen, Theresa Lorenzo
African Journal of Disability | Vol 4, No 1 | a167 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v4i1.167 | © 2015 Margaret Booyens, Ermien van Pletzen, Theresa Lorenzo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 October 2014 | Published: 09 June 2015

About the author(s)

Margaret Booyens, Department of Social Development, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Ermien van Pletzen, Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Theresa Lorenzo, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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An understanding of rural communities is fundamental to effective community-based rehabilitation work with persons with disabilities. By removing barriers to community participation, persons with disabilities are enabled to satisfy their fundamental human needs. However, insufficient attention has been paid to the challenges that rural community disability workers (CDWs) face in trying to realise these objectives. This qualitative interpretive study, involving in-depth interviews with 16 community disability workers in Botswana, Malawi and South Africa, revealed the complex ways in which poverty, inappropriately used power and negative attitudes of service providers and communities combine to create formidable barriers to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in families and rural communities. The paper highlights the importance of understanding and working with the concept of ‘disability’ from a social justice and development perspective. It stresses that by targeting attitudes, actions and relationships, community disability workers can bring about social change in the lives of persons with disabilities and the communities in which they live.


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