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HomeNEWSAdvancing Disability Rights in Nigeria: JONAPWD, DRF/DRAF Call on Govt to fully...

Advancing Disability Rights in Nigeria: JONAPWD, DRF/DRAF Call on Govt to fully Implement the Disability Act

The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) supported by
Disability Rights Fund/Disability Rights Advocacy Fund (DRF/DRAF) on July 1-5 hosted the 2024 DRF/DRAF Nigerian Grantee Convening themed “Building a Diverse Disability Movement in Nigeria: Exploring Underutilized Opportunities for Growth and Impact” in Abuja. This is part of DRF/DRAF’s efforts to provide technical assistance and oversight to grantees. The main goal of the convening is to create opportunities for current grantees to learn and share lessons about their work and priorities, toward building a cohesive and inclusive movement that leaves no one behind.

Specific Objectives of the Convening are for Organizations of Persons with Disabilities to identify workable strategies to support the growth and involvement of marginalized and emergent groups within the movement with an emphasis on the youth. Participants to have better knowledge of other advocacy opportunities and strengthen their engagements with other platforms and frameworks such as regional and sub-regional systems, GDS commitments, emerging opportunities for implementation of the Disability Act, and other emerging issues in development like Artificial Intelligence (AI), disability care, and data management. OPDs to gain a better understanding of the operations of other development partners and donors in the country to strengthen partnerships and attract more funding to disability rights. For Grantees to be more empowered to pursue their projects through knowledge sharing and networking. Participants have improved knowledge of the work of DRF under the new strategic plan and what it means to grantees. Grantees develop strategies to strengthen their internal control and financial management.

The Program Manager for West Africa at the Disability Rights Fund, Mr. Theophilus Odaudu, speaking on Tuesday during the opening speech welcomed and introduced attendees from various backgrounds and expressed his appreciation to JONAPWD for hosting and organizing the event. According to him “It’s a convening of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities DRF grantee convening but then we have everybody here, both grantees, non-grantees, previous grantees, prospective grantees and everyone. We are happy that we are all here. The idea is for us to be able to network, discuss, share ideas and learn, all aiming towards the growth of the disability movement in Nigeria. He emphasized the critical importance of developing a robust disability movement to effectively advance the implementation of the Disability Act and related legislation nationwide.

Highlighting the diversity within the community of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), Odaudu noted that they are not a homogenous group and it is crucial to adopt intersectional approaches to ensure that no one is left behind. He also called upon both the government and society to fully integrate the needs and rights of PWDs into all interventions and policies.

The National President JONAPWD, Mr Abdullahi Usman while speaking emphasized the necessity for the government to ensure that persons with disabilities (PWDs) become independent and self-reliant.

According to Mr Usman, with over 35 million PWDs in Nigeria engaged in various fields and endeavours, the government must consciously work to protect the fundamental rights of PWDs. He underscored the need for comprehensive support for persons with disabilities, highlighting the importance of training even those who are not educated.

Mr Usman further highlighted the critical importance of education, pointing out that many children with disabilities are out of school. “Many organizations and advocates discuss the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, but a closer look reveals that the majority are either children with disabilities or children of persons with disabilities,” he stated.

He stressed that persons with disabilities deserve equal rights alongside their persons without disability peers and called for a concerted effort to address these critical issues.

Mathilde Quellet, Secretary at the High Commission of Canada in Nigeria, expressed her appreciation to the event organizers for their coordination of the movement for the rights of people with disabilities in Canada. She emphasized Canada’s belief that changes should be guided by those directly affected, stating, “I come humbly today to express our shared commitment to supporting the rights of persons with disabilities in Nigeria and worldwide.”

Quellet highlighted Canada’s strong belief that fostering inclusion and equality is essential to building a more peaceful and prosperous world, noting that protecting the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities is a crucial part of this effort. Despite Canada’s active engagement in this area, full inclusion for people with disabilities in political participation, access to infrastructure, and employment statistics remains a goal yet to be fully achieved.

She revealed a significant increase in the number of people living with disabilities in Canada over the past five years, particularly due to the ageing population and the pandemic. Women, in particular, are more likely to live with severe disabilities. Nearly half of Canadians with disabilities have faced financial challenges due to the pandemic, and six out of ten have encountered barriers in accessing public spaces. However, progress is being made, with a decrease in workplace discrimination and an increase in employment opportunities for people with disabilities. This progress aligns with the Canadian feminist international assistance policy, which prioritizes reaching the most vulnerable to ensure no one is left behind in the development process.

Quellet underscored the importance of this approach in Nigeria, where high levels of poverty, violence, and conflict exacerbate the marginalization and vulnerability of people with disabilities. She highlighted the pride Canada takes in supporting initiatives such as the project in Kaduna, facilitated by TAF Africa through the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, which concluded last March. This project aimed to strengthen local institutions in Kaduna in governance and the rule of law, focusing on promoting disability inclusion through advocacy, public awareness campaigns, and capacity-building initiatives. These efforts align with Canada’s feminist international assistance policy, aiming to effect tangible changes at the grassroots level.

Quellet also mentioned Canada’s support for UN Women’s initiatives to enhance women’s political participation, with a specific focus on involving women with disabilities in politics. She acknowledged that Canada’s efforts represent a modest contribution compared to the broader efforts needed. There remains significant work to be done, particularly in implementing and complying with Nigeria’s national disability law across various institutions, as discussed with JONAPWD and other foreign missions. While the existing law marks an important milestone, it requires full implementation and review to reflect the specific needs of women. This can only be achieved through collaborative efforts from diverse state and non-state actors to build a robust disability movement in Nigeria.

She concluded by thanking JONAPWD for hosting the event and providing a platform for discussing the rights of people with disabilities.

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