By Claude Nyarko Adams
A three-day coordination and training meeting of regional disability inclusion experts in West Africa is underway in Accra.
Organised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, the meeting is to build the capacity of government focal persons on reporting requirements on the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The CRPD, adopted in 2006, aims to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
Opening the event yesterday, Executive Secretary of the National Council on Persons with Disability, Esther Akua Gyamfi, said, Ghana had since 1960 made efforts for disability inclusion as captured in 1992 Constitution, the Disability Policy of 2000 and currently the Persons with Disability Act 2006 (Act 715).
Additionally, she noted, the country has strong network of disability inclusion made up of 96 organisations for persons with disabilities, one federation of disability organisation and more than 38 para-sports federations.
She said Ghana’s ratification of the UN CRPD had resulted in the development of some local policies such as Ghana Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment, Framework & Strategies for Mainstreaming Disability in Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), Inclusive Education policy and Guidelines for the Management and Disbursement of the District Assembly Common Fund for Persons with Disability.
“We are currently in the process of adopting Driver and Vehicles Licensing Authority (DVLA) Policy for Training and Testing Drivers with Disabilities and the National Risk Disaster Management Guidelines,” she added
Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil, ECOWAS Resident Representative in Ghana, said, currently, the reporting cycle under the UN CRPD had been completed by only Niger and Senegal while a review of state reports by the CRPD Committee was currently underway for seven member states including Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone and Togo.
He noted that six member states; Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Nigeria were significantly behind in fulfilling their obligations to submit state’s reports on the progress made so far under the CRPD.
He said the meeting would focus on raising awareness on the African Union Disability Protocol, which was yet to be embraced by many ECOWAS countries although it speaks to disability inclusion issues from the African perspective.
Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo, he stated, were the ECOWAS member states to have signed the Protocol while only Mali had signed and ratified it.
Ambassador Wakil said, there was the need for member states to work together to reverse the trend for the achievement of a fully integrated community of people in a peaceful and prosperous region.
In a speech read on her behalf, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Ambassador Cessouma Minata Samate, said, there was still widespread stigma and discrimination, especially around killings of persons with albinism across the continent.
This, she noted, required awareness creation and trust building to promote positive messages and communication to facilitate change of attitudes and foster inclusion.
“We must join hands to have a regional mobilisation and solidarity in response to protection of the rights of persons with albinism,” she added.