As part of FAECARE Foundation’s Disability Rights Initiative Project, supported by Disability Rights Fund, a team from the organization carried out an Advocacy visit to a key stakeholder, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) – Rivers State Branch, to push towards reducing inequalities that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) face including Women and Girls with Disabilities in Rivers State.
After a series of introductions of the organization, Freky Andrew-Essien Care Foundation (FAECARE Foundation), the project and the team by the program officer, Osaki Theresa Georgewill.
The Executive Director, Ndifreke Andrew-Essien in addressing the team from FIDA which had the Chairperson, the vice chairperson and the secretary present, set the conversation pace by highlighting concerns followed by requests.
She hinted the legal tools available to advance the rights of Persons with Disabilities: Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act (2018) which was signed into Law in 2019, the Rivers State Welfare Enhancement Law (2012) and the United Nations Convention on the rights of PWDs.
She touched on the concerns with the Rivers State Welfare Enhancement Laws’ effectiveness being tied to a Welfare Council which has never been constituted and still doesn’t exist. She also highlighted how the law was largely welfarist as opposed to being rights based. In her words “Welfare is good, but rights are better, as it doesn’t position PWDs at a disadvantage.
Mr Udeme Mathias who is a member of the team and DRIP advocate spoke to one of the provisions of the law being inclusive education. He lamented that some schools in Rivers State especially at the lower level (primary and secondary) are not inclusive.
He shared an ugly experience as a counselling psychologist and a rehabilitation therapist who trains visually impaired persons on how two of his clients enrolled for JAMB and scored over 200 points in their results but were refused admission based on disability and a claim by the institutions of lack of facilities to accommodate the visually impaired students. He also spoke about the sad state of the special needs school in Rivers State and how it is a sorry excuse of a learning environment.
Based on these, the Executive Director of FAECARE, Ndifreke Andrew-Essien made
In her response, the FIDA chairperson, Adata Bio-Briggs and her team being the Vice Chairperson by name Emi Jim-George and the secretary by name Iniobong Irene Pepple thanked the organization and the advocates for finding them worthy as they like collaborations like this.
Adata Bio-Briggs acknowledged the 2012 Rivers State Welfare Enhancement Law and spoke to some of the efforts of FIDA. She assured that FIDA Rivers will collaborate with FAECARE Foundation towards ensuring that the Act is domesticated and/or Rivers State welfare (Enhancement) Law (2012) is amended or repealed in line with the new law. She affirmed that FIDA Rivers will carry out advocacy on the laws.
She detailed that FIDA Rivers is already sensitizing on inclusive education and will do even more in partnership with FAECARE. Adata Bio-Briggs stated that FIDA Rivers is providing probono services for PWDs as it is one of the strategic goals of FIDA Nigeria to provide legal services for the vulnerable which includes PWDs.
While thanking the FIDA Team, Freky Andrew-Essien mentioned that they were optimistic that the new set of law makers, Judiciary and executive council will have the “ears” and the “heart” to push for these Laws. She also cited that one of the strategies is to engage with individuals who can connect easily and influence this agenda because for the past 8 years, Persons with Disabilities were not considered for anything in the state.
To wrap the visit FAECARE Foundation presented Advocacy materials to FIDA Rivers being; easy to read formats of the UNCRPD, Discrimination against PWDs (Prohibition) Act and the RIVERS Welfare (Enhancement) law, as well, as other IEC materials. In reciprocation of the gesture, the FIDA Rivers branch presented copies of the book relevant laws beneficial to women in Rivers State, a promise was made to make it available in braille at the insistence of the advocates.