The Advocacy for Women with Disability Initiative (AWWDI) on 25th August, 2022 hosted dignitaries from different organizations – Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, UNFPA, National Commission of Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD), Federal Ministry of Health, The Nigeria Police Force, Disability Rights Fund, the National Association of the Blind, and a host other representatives from NGOs and CSOs.
The Conference, themed: “Violence Against Women with Disabilities is Violence Against all Women” was moderated by Grace Jerry, Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association.
It was geared towards discussions and advocacy for the rights of women with disabilities. Specific emphasis was placed on the issue of Gender Based Violence and provision of solutions to challenges encountered by victims.
In a keynote address delivered by Her Excellency, the Honorable Minister of Women Affairs and social development, Pauline Tellen, the myriad of problems faced by Women with Disabilities were enumerated according to World Health Organization sources. Spotlight was also thrown on those peculiar to the Nigerian system.
The minister insists that these challenges stem from low involvement of women in the legislation drafting process.
She stressed the need for women with disabilities to be actively involved in program drafting and policy formulation – starting from the grassroots and reaching to national level. This position was seconded by Mr. Theophilus Odaudu of Disability Rights Fund.
Also speaking was Madam Olanike Akinbola of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD). Akinbola addressed issues of sexual harassment and unfair treatment towards Women with Disabilities (WWDs). According to her, issues like these should be reported to the Police which now has a special unit that attends to complaints and act swiftly in matters concerning PWDs.
For Mrs. Tosin Akibu, Country Representative of the UN & ECOWAS, the need for aggregation of national database for WWDs is sacrosanct.
She noted the current gap in tracking previous violations owing to absence of a national database.
“On the issue of inclusion, it was noted that little or no cognizance is paid by service providers and developers in the development and provision of services suited for WWDs. In other words, most of these services and products are not disability friendly. To make them Disability friendly would require infrastructural redesigns of offices and others in private and public sectors alike”.
In same vein, Mr Abdullahi Dauda, Deputy Superintendent of Police assured attendees of the Force’s willingness to swing into action when issues like sexual violence is perpetrated against WWDs.
Abdullahi noted that each state command has a Gender-based desk and online platform that receives complaints and acts promptly.
Earlier, the Convener and Executive Director of AWWDI, Mrs. Patience Ogolo-Dickson appreciated the participants for showing up. She went on to emphasize how the impressive turnout shows the level of concern towards the advocacy.
Ogolo-Dickson highlighted objectives of the conference to include raising awareness, spotlighting WWDs in a positive direction and addressing GBV and Disability based Violence.
She stressed on the inadequate justice system in Nigeria, particularly in addressing the infringements cases of WWDs.
According to her, “accessing justice is difficult because Disability rights are not pronounced and held in high esteem in Nigeria”.
She challenged the myths. by proving that rights are non-discriminatory of a person. As such, the judiciary should evolve to apply the law the way it is, and not with stereotype beliefs.
INN reports that at the concluding session of the conference, Madam Olanike Akinbola, Head of Women and Gender, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) ushered in the session by making a presentation on Gender, Disability and Violence.
Madam Akinbola stated that in dealing with gender-based violence, the intersection between gender and disability has become an issue of utmost concern and the risk of facing gender-based violence increases by many times for women with disabilities.
She attributed root causes of the problem to powerlessness, inaccessibility to services, economic factors and cultural factors; she rounded her presentation by calling all relevant stakeholders to work together in their various capacities to put an end to the lingering problems.
The highly enthralling conference, INN understands, was concluded with a panel discussion from various stakeholders including: Centre for Non- Violence and Gender Advocacy, UNFPA, Nigeria Police Force, Albino Foundation (TAF), Susan Unique Oasis Foundation, Deaf Women Association Nigeria (DWAN), Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAP) and Equity Advocates.