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News and Press ReleasesSudanese candidate fights for disability rights in South Australia

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Sudanese candidate fights for disability rights in South Australia

03-04-2014, 07:42 PM
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Sudanese candidate fights for disability rights in South Australia



    MARK COLVIN: A young Sudanese woman in South Australia says migrants with disabilities and those facing abuse need a voice in Parliament.

    Esther Simbi has entered the race for this month's state election as a candidate for the Dignity for Disability Party.

    She says domestic violence in migrant communities also needs to be addressed, particularly for women who are scared to ask for help.

    Caroline Winter reports.

    CAROLINE WINTER: Under a shady tree in a park in Adelaide, a mother and daughter laugh and play.

    ESTHER SIMBI: Yay! Good job Destiny!

    CAROLINE WINTER: But three-year-old Destiny is unaware of the struggles faced by the woman she adores.

    ESTHER SIMBI: Sudanese women are treated as sexual objects, they're treated as men's properties. They are not treated as full human beings. Being a Sudanese woman with a disability, being a woman alone also adds another layer to being disadvantaged in the community.

    CAROLINE WINTER: Thirty-six-year-old Esther Simbi walks with a severe limp, after being struck down with polio as a child. Her disability made an already challenging life in Sudan even harder.

    ESTHER SIMBI: I was raped by a friend who took advantage of me and when I reported the rape to my family and friends, other people said that I brought the rape to myself, if it happened, because calamity is written all over me.

    CAROLINE WINTER: After 19 years in refugee camps, Esther Simbi came to Adelaide in 2005. Now she has a job, a university degree, is studying for her Masters and is running for parliament.

    ESTHER SIMBI: I've been kept invisible all my life, choices and decisions have been made for me. This is what really made me to come to where I am now - to work with government to put an end to culture of negativity towards people with disabilities.

    CAROLINE WINTER: The upper house candidate for Dignity for Disability is campaigning for a more tolerant South Australia for the disabled.

    She also wants more help for new arrivals when it comes to abuse within migrant communities.

    Cynthia Caird is from South Australia's Migrant Resource Centre.

    CYNTHIA CAIRD: One of the challenges that our communities face is that because they are not accustomed to the Western system of laws against family violence, they bring with them traditional practices.

    CAROLINE WINTER: Those practices dictate that the man is head of the home and the woman has few rights, and that can turn ugly when migrant women assert their newfound authority within the family.

    Cynthia Caird again.

    CYNTHIA CAIRD: The women become very empowered when they come to Australia, and they would say oh 'we feel very safe here.' In some instances domestic violence may occur because there is that resistance by the men to actually adhere to the Western system, and they need to be taught to actually follow the law.

    CAROLINE WINTER: Families are given intensive training about what is and isn't acceptable when they arrive. But Esther Simbi says some still slip through the cracks.

    ESTHER SIMBI: A lot of them are not accessing that support because African women speak through men, and the men make the decisions. If the man ‘say no you're not going to that service,' of course the woman will not access it. You go to that service without the man's permission, there is abuse in the house, and that results in ongoing domestic violence.

    CAROLINE WINTER: But some male figures from a range of migrant communities are taking matters into their own hands.

    George Fomba from Liberia is one. He's become a White Ribbon ambassador and teaches men in his community about gender violence.

    GEORGE FOMBA: Now that we've taken this oath, we need to live by it and we need to spread this message and be campaigners. We shouldn't by all means remain silent, condone violence against women.

    CAROLINE WINTER: While George Fomba ramps up his campaign, a fortnight from polling day, Esther Simbi continues hers.

    ESTHER SIMBI: Oh my Destiny (laughs) we all love Destiny.

    CAROLINE WINTER: What's in a name? Potentially Esther Simbi's future.

    MARK COLVIN: Caroline Winter.
                  

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