Egypt: 'Dwarfs' fight to be classed as disabled

Gamal and Nada - both members of the  - marry in Egypt Gamal and Nada at their recent wedding

Amid the strife about Egypt's draft constitution, one group vesting its hopes in the document is the Association of the Rights of Dwarfs.

The courts recognised it only last year, and the Alexandria-based organisation is still fighting to make Egyptians aware of the unique problems faced by their 85,000 compatriots who are people of restricted growth.

Work can be hard to come by. Many are asked by prospective employers for a certificate stating they are legally recognised as disabled, but the doctors and social workers who provide these certificates often do not regard being of short stature as a disability. In Egypt, 5% of jobs in public institutions reserved for people with disabilities.

"Most of us live in very poor conditions, as we aren't classed as disabled but not considered to be able-bodied either," association chairman Essam Shehatta tells the Cairo Post.

Things may be changing, as Shehatta has obtained a pledge from the committee drafting the new constitution that the article covering disabilities will include people of restricted growth. "We were seeking to get our own special category, but... it's better than nothing," he says.

Apart from the difficulty of finding work, they tell the Cairo Post how hard it can be just to get about on Egypt's crowded streets. "We can't afford cars, and every morning the journey to work is a nightmare," says Manel Marouz, who describes struggling up high pavements and onto packed buses.

But the lack of understanding from their fellow citizens is often the hardest to take. "They stare at us as if we were monsters," complains Manel. But the Cairo Post's article also features a recent wedding between two association members, fashion designer Nada and her bridegroom Gamal, where "tall and short guests gathered together, and the topic of discussion was not the height of the newly-weds but rather how right they seemed for one another".

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