Dwarfism support group launched
FOR someone with dwarfism, being called derogatory names such as midget or even Thokolosi is merely the tip of the iceberg of abuse and discrimination in all facets of life.
Dwarfism refers to short stature that results from a genetic or medical condition. It is generally defined as an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimeters) or less. The average adult height among people with dwarfism is 4 feet (122 cm).
In addition to incessant public scrutiny and ridicule a person with dwarfism deals with on a daily basis, they also have to contend with clothes, furniture, vehicle and public convenience sizes that don’t cater for their stature.
Given the rareness of the condition, people with dwarfism the world over face a host of challenges from education, employment to health, and Lesotho is no exception.
These challenges have spawned the formation of Short People Change Big Worlds – an association meant to spotlight the challenges facing people with dwarfism and also meant to raise awareness on their plight among “normal” people.
The association’s founder Realeboha Moeketsi told the Lesotho Times this week that it was formed last month to support people with dwarfism and highlight the challenges they face to the wider world.
“A person with my height cannot go anywhere without being called all sorts of derogatory names and being stared at. Added to that, we also find it difficult to make use of public facilities,” he said.
“Some people with dwarfism end up being uneducated because parents often hide them from society while others drop out of school because of being bullied on a daily basis.
“Even those who went to school cannot be employed because of the height requirements for most jobs, although it is possible to cater for people with dwarfism in some occupations.”
Short People Change Big Worlds, Mr Moeketsi said, was also meant to show average-sized people that being vertically-challenged did not mean being an invalid.
“This association is meant to prove to the wider society that we are not impaired and convince them to see us as normal people through joint campaigns,” he said.
“Having equipment that is convenient for us may be difficult to achieve initially, so we want to start at the basic level of being able to earn a living.”
Mr Moeketsi added: “We wish to establish cooperatives in the fields of agriculture such as livestock farming and vegetables cultivation to prove that we can also be hands on. We are yet to map out other strategies to develop ourselves.”
So far, he said, just five people in Maseru were members of the association with the long-term goal being to reach out beyond the capital city to the rest of Lesotho.
“We are only five at the moment, and we intend to conduct a lot of public outreach programmes here in Maseru before the end of February and then extend to other districts to make it a national agenda,” Mr Moeketsi said.