Persons with disabilities (PWDs) have decried the conditions they have had to live with in Nigeria and other West African countries, insisting that there are so many physical and psychological hindrances that are present in the region to further incapacitate them and add to their disability.
Speaking in Abuja during the week at the opening of a three-day regional meeting of disability inclusion experts in West Africa, the Executive Secretary National Commission for Persons with Disability, Mr. James Lalu, called for removal of barriers hindering the inclusion of persons with disability in the scheme of things in Nigeria and the rest of West Africa region.
He said that persons with disabilities are known to be faced with various social challenges including marginalisation in employments as well as discrimination by the society, and it is against this backdrop that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gathered experts from the sub-region to review disability inclusion laws, policies and programmes in its member states, and to identify gaps and levels of compliance with international standards.
According to him, key findings of the study to be considered by the experts will provide evidence-based data for policy makers to utilises in mainstreaming disability issues into development policy and programming.
Represented by his Technical Assistant, Mr. Yusuf Iyodo, the Executive Secretary National Commission for Persons With Disabilities in the Sub-region, said they would now have a voice if the recommendations of the study are implemented.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, said the commission would continue to encourage member states to create an enabling environment under which the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities are addressed in every sector.
She said that the number of persons with disabilities are dramatically increasing and this was due to demographic trends and increases in chronic health conditions, hence the need for the meeting.
She said, “ECOWAS recommends the development of a regional framework for protection of persons with disability in ECOWAS region; awareness-creation and sensitisation on international and regional legal/policy frameworks protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and disability inclusion to be mainstreamed into development planning in the ECOWAS region.”
“Anecdotally, it is known that, when persons with disabilities access health care, they often experience stigma and discrimination, and sometimes receive poor quality services because of the stigma and misconceptions,” she lamented, urging that: “There is an urgent need to scale up disability inclusion in all levels of the social systems- education, health, employment, recreation/sports, and others.”
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, encouraged Persons with Disabilities to always stand for their rights, assuring them of Federal Government’s support towards improving their welfare.
The Country Director, International Labour Organisation (ILO), represented by Dr. Runo Onosade, disclosed that the ILO was working to increase the employability of people with disability through partnership with various stakeholders.
Fifty experts from government institutions, national associations of persons with disabilities, development partners and ECOWAS institutions are participating at the three-day meeting.