By Adewale Elisha Adeyanju (INN), Lagos
A group of women with disabilities under the aegis of Network of Women with Disabilities (NDW) organized an awareness walk and rally on Thursday 16 March, 2023 in Lagos.
The awareness program was held to demand for better inclusion of women with disabilities in politics, governance and social programs aimed at deepening and strengthening the dividends of democracy and future elections in the country.
The awareness walk, part of the two-day event which commenced on Wednesday 15th drove home the points being made by the Network during its presentation of a charter of demands titled: “2023 Elections and Beyond”.
Clusters of Persons with Disabilities – the deaf, the blind, dwarf, the albinos and those with physical and intellectual disabilities displayed placards with various declarations: “We are capable”, “Include us in politics”, “Include us in Governance and Programs”, “We want 15% allocation in Governmental positions for PWDs”, amongst others.
The procession covered Adeniran Ogunsanya and adjacent streets in Surulere, Lagos even as handbills and fliers containing the charter of demands for Women with Disabilities were freely distributed to motorists and pedestrians.
Speaking to Inclusive News Network, the Public Relations Officer, NDW – Ms. Assumpta Khalil explained in strong terms why Women with Disabilities are protesting their exclusion from policy formulation at the various levels of governance.
According to Khalil: “It is not easy to be a woman with disability. No one will ever pray to be one. There is an urgent need to bring Women with Disabilities to the table, we need to be carried along in policy formulation at all levels, after all, we have a saying: “Nothing About Us Without Us”. Those who pretend to represent us in Government are only after self benefit, they do not truly represent us”.
Going further, Assumpta said, “It’s when we are truly involved that our needs will be made known; life will be made comfortable (at least a bit), poverty will reduce, and women with disabilities will be able to access services. This is why we are requesting that 15% slots in Government positions be allocated to Women with Disabilities because we are capable and ready”.
On her part, General Secretary of the Network – Ms. Yemisi Salami wants women with disabilities to be carried along before and after elections. She stated that in each of the States of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, women with disabilities are largely ignored, neglected and marginalized. This, according to Ms Salami leads to inferiority complexes, street begging and poverty among our people.
The General Secretary further opined that if women with disabilities received encouragement and motivation, they will join politics – thus reducing poverty level amongst their members and guaranteeing employment and empowerment opportunities.
Some ways to do this, she canvassed, is for political parties to form partnerships with the disability community, reduce costs involved in picking nomination forms, reserve political posts for disability community, etc.
Bolarinwa Elizabeth and Victoria Adesanya, both ladies with albinism in separate remarks, condemned in strong terms the stigma society attaches to their skin colour.
The ladies jointly requested for special skin and cancer care for their cluster, education and training to enable them participate in Politics freely. They added that lack of requisite education and training, coupled with stigma and isolation are among the biggest problems Persons with Albinism face. “We want to be carried along”, they reiterated.
Standing in for the blind cluster, Chigozie Udeobi and Kudirat Amuda, both blind, were of the opinion that Government must first subscribe to education and training of PWDs through scholarships and support to make them relevant. Both ladies advocated training in vocational skills acquisition as an integral part of the set up that will assist blind persons get quality jobs and be able to cater for themselves.
According to the duo: “Gender inequality has also contributed in no measure to the marginalization of Women with Disabilities”.
“This should be looked into if women with disabilities must advance. Our demand for 15% slots for women with disabilities is in order. We would however, emphasize early education and empowerment of blind people because education is power”, they stressed.
Ms. Yemisi Isado, NDW Treasurer, while sharing her opinion observed that the United Nations had adopted the “Leave no one behind” slogan in the quest to evolve an egalitarian society with a leaning towards sustainable development.
She argued that no part of society must be left behind – adding that women with disabilities have demonstrated they are eager for better opportunities and a holistic approach to improved and better living conditions.
“Participating in governance ensuring our voice is heard and that we make contributions, no matter how minimal is important”, she concluded.
The network canvassed support from government, private sector, media and other institutions in making the dreams and aspirations of women with disabilities become a reality.
“Every election year, women with disabilities must be carried along as stakeholders in society”, the women emphasized.
I want Nigerian government to provide wheelchair for each and every physical challenge person in Nigeria free of charge
Nigerian government should provide mobility aid for all disability clusters in Nigeria free of charge and wen due