By Chukwunyere Nwosu (INN), Abuja
Ability Plus Ventures, a project of the Ability Plus Initiative (API), was launched on Sunday, with the aim to empower and recognize individuals with disabilities in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, irrespective of their skill level, education, or socioeconomic background.
The project is dedicated to addressing the neglected needs of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), fostering equal opportunities, enhancing their participation in society, and forging closer connections. By breaking barriers, Ability Plus Ventures aims to enable PWDs to become agents of change and transformation, while showcasing their skills, gifts, and talents.
In her opening remarks, Janet Fasakin, the CEO of API, described Ability Plus Ventures as an entrepreneurship hub that offers relevant and in-demand skill acquisition programs to both educated and uneducated PWDs. The hub is the first of its kind in Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa that provides training in various fields such as fashion designing, catering, bag and shoe making, baking, tying of gele, manicure and pedicure, art and craft, as well as sign language classes and counseling for parents and caregivers of PWDs. API firmly believes that all PWDs possess talents that deserve recognition and appreciation. The organization strives to meet the four major needs of PWDs: recognition, information, inclusivity, and empowerment, while nurturing and deploying their creativity and passion.
“Unfortunately, many individuals with disabilities (PWDs) often face mistreatment and discrimination when they join an organization as apprentices. They are frequently assigned menial tasks such as fetching water and washing clothes, which deviates from the purpose of their apprenticeship and perpetuates discrimination, marginalization, and a lack of equal treatment.
“At our venture, however, we take a different approach. We firmly believe in the value and worth of every individual, regardless of their abilities. We strive to create an environment where everyone is appreciated and treated as essential members of our community, fostering relationships that transcend barriers and promote inclusivity.”
Ms. Fasakin emphasized, “We firmly believe that every PWD has untapped potential that deserves recognition and appreciation. This belief led us to establish Ability Plus Ventures, an entrepreneurship hub where PWDs can acquire diverse skills and achieve relevance and financial independence.”
Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of leadership training, utilizing the YALI teaching method, to cultivate not only skillfulness but also responsibility and leadership qualities among PWDs. In this regard, experts in the field of leadership will be invited to provide training sessions.
Expressing her gratitude to Mr. Alexander Uchechukwu, her Sign Language interpreter, and all her partners, sponsors and members of API, Ms. Fasakin appealed for additional support to acquire empowerment tools such as sewing machines, hair drying machines, makeup kits, laundry machines, cake mixers, gas ovens, and office furniture for the venture.
She also expressed her profound gratitude to the comprehensive assistance the venture have received, encompassing everything from rental arrangements to implementation, which was provided by her most devoted supporter, closest confidant, her beloved husband, Mr. Toyin Fasakin.
In her words, “he has not only recognized and understood my dreams and aspirations, but has also extended unwavering support in every possible way. I am immensely grateful to have such a supportive partner who anticipates my success and encourages me to overcome challenges.”
The launch event witnessed the presence of notable personalities in the Disability Community, including Ayoade Beyioku-Alase, the Chairman of the Abuja Association of the Deaf, and Helen Beyioku-Alase, the President of the Deaf Women Association of Nigeria, among others. PWDs, their friends, well-wishers, and sign language interpreters came together to celebrate this significant milestone, demonstrating that PWDs can lead meaningful and purposeful lives.
Guests and attendees were impressed by the showcased creations of PWDs, which included bumper jackets, customized backpacks, native wears, and footwear. These displays provided an opportunity for individuals to witness the talent and creativity that thrives within the disability community. The event challenged preconceived notions and stereotypes about disabilities while highlighting the importance of accessibility and inclusion across various industries, including fashion and design.
Mrs. Hellen Beyioku-Alase, the President of the Deaf Women Association of Nigeria (DWAN), conveyed in her goodwill message the significance of the initiative as the first Deaf Business Centre in Nigeria. She emphasized that this unique establishment provides young deaf women with opportunities for empowerment, skill acquisition, and gainful employment. The initiative boasts a team of talented deaf trainers, demonstrating that individuals who are deaf can excel in any field, despite their hearing impairment.
Mrs. Beyioku-Alase commended the CEO of API, Janet Fasakin, for her remarkable initiative and investment in persons with disabilities (PWDs), particularly in creating employment opportunities for deaf women and girls. She encouraged more deaf girls to participate in the initiative and acquire diverse skills.
The Chairman of the Abuja Association of the Deaf (AAD) expressed his delight and acknowledged the range of training programs available through the initiative, such as tailoring, makeup, and gele (headgear tying), which are all conducted by individuals who are deaf. He viewed this development as a positive step towards enabling deaf individuals to break free from the cycle of begging. He called upon both government and private organizations to unite and support the disability community, with a particular focus on the unemployed deaf individuals in the FCT region, by providing opportunities for them to acquire diverse skills and improve their livelihoods.
He congratulated the CEO of API for initiating such an inclusive project, which sets an unprecedented example for the inclusion of deaf individuals and other PWDs.
Pastor Jack John, the Lead Pastor of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, Lugbe with other anointed men of God prayed and blessed this life-transforming initiative.
He appreciated everyone who came to celebrate API and stated that “we can’t do this without the huge support, partnership, sponsorship and investments of various individuals, organisations, and government agencies who see a need to ensure that the development, recognition, and voices of persons with disabilities are given full priority in modern day Society”.