Hauwa Ojeifo, a mental health and disability advocate, and founder of She Writes Woman (SWW), has lamented the complicity of the United Nation member states and the society on how they treat people with disabilities, especially when it comes to giving them full and equal recognition before the law.

Ojeifo said this while giving the opening statement at the three-day 14th United Nations Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities held online on Tuesday.

“I have the privilege to speak before you today,” she said. “I carry their stories, mine and the more than 1 billion people living with a disability—many of whom have been stripped of their dignity and agency—because we can no longer wait for what seems like a favour. These are our rights.”

She stated that since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into effect, and ratified by member states, the world has not moved nearly fast enough for people with disabilities.

“In many countries around the world, people with disabilities, like me, are yet to be given full and equal recognition before the law,” she lamented. However, she added that “we are working to change this.”

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She noted that with the support of the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, her organisation, SWW, has documented cases of medical and mental health practitioners violating people with disabilities and stripping them of free and informed consent as well as forcing detention on them.

“Together with Human Rights Watch, She Writes Woman investigated cases of people with psychosocial disabilities being subjected to inhuman conditions—including shackling and forced treatment—in my country, Nigeria,” she said. “The horrific abuse of human chaining is not limited to Nigeria only. This practice has been documented in at least 60 countries across the world.”

She stated that some UN member states and governments are complicit in these atrocities and that many countries are still endorsing institutionalization and building more facilities that further isolate and violate people with disabilities rather than investing in community-based supports for them.

“We demand meaningful participation, in the true spirit of nothing about us without us,” she said. “Today, you distinguished delegates must take responsibility for all the harm done to us and renew your commitment to working with us, people with disabilities, to realise our rights.”

To connect and educate people with mental health challenges and psychosocial disabilities in Nigeria, Ojeifo’s organisation handles Nigeria’s first 24/7 toll-free mental health support helpline where Nigerians can call to get free mental health support.

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