“Amplifying voices; interview with Tracy Onabis, an IFA trained Advocate on Disability Based Violence with support from Ford Foundation”

Tracy Onabis is a lawyer by profession, and an advocate on the Amplifying voices project at the Inclusive Friends Association, with support from Ford Foundation. She is a Nigerian young woman who is very passionate about the rights of persons with disabilities. She is a disability rights advocate who uses social media to speak on disability issues.

The Qualitative Magazine came across her and she bear her mind on Disability Based Violence(DBV), a topic, she cherished so much which she has been speaking so passionately about on Facebook and other platforms.

In this interview with the Executive Director, The Qualitative Magazine, she went in-depth on issues relating to Disability Based Violence, what people should know and what Persons with Disabilities should do get to justice.

What is disability Based Violence from in a lame man understanding?

Disability Based Violence is any act of abuse or omission that is directed at a person or group of persons because of their disability. For instance, not sending a child to school because of his disability, killing of persons with albinism, body shaming or name calling of persons with disabilities, isolation, etc.

These Violence, are they common in all form of disability?

Yes, they are. Different disability comes with different violence associated with it.  For instance, persons with physical disabilities sometimes have their mobility aids taken away from them, leaving them stranded and they begin to bemoan their fate which results in emotional trauma. Persons with visual impairment have reported cases of sexual abuse by silent perpetrators who refuse to speak so as not to be identified by their voice. Persons with Albinism are killed or maimed for ritual purposes, these and so many more are all disability based violence.

How does DBV affect PWDs emotionally and psychologically?

Disability Based Violence often results in emotional and psychological trauma. As a matter of fact, emotional violence is an aspect of disability based violence that is very rampant because it is often a consequence of other forms of violence like physical, sexual, socio- economical or harmful traditional practices. Disability Based Violence often leaves persons with disabilities emotionally drained, traumatized, depressed, and in some cases suicidal. A person who is emotionally unstable cannot be useful to himself and by extension cannot be useful to the society at large

Which gender among PWDs suffer DBV more?

Generally, men and women with disabilities suffer one form of violence or the other. But by reason of their nature, women are more vulnerable and prone to experiencing violence than the men folk.

Men by nature have strong survival instincts, but women are more inclined to resigning to fate and bearing all manner of things because they often do not have an escape route, maybe by way of who or where else to go to, or means of livelihood

As a woman with albinism, have you suffered any form of DBV?

A lot of times! I have been called several names that made me emotionally traumatized and lost my self-esteem. I was almost denied my right to work and earn a living, which is socio-economic violence. I am a survivor of disability based violence

What steps did you take to survive DBV?

At first I just kind of out grew some of the scars. But for the deeper cuts, I had to reach out to close friends and confided in them. I also started to build capacity to make me more informed to handle such situations

I developed a tough skin and decided to see myself far better than the world saw me. I chose to see myself as God saw me and that was the beginning of my healing journey

As a lawyer and also an advocate for DBV, what do you proffer on how PWDs can guard against DBV? and are there laws existing that can protect PWDs against DBV?

The constitution is the legal instrument that protects the rights of all citizens, including persons with disabilities. The Violence against persons (prohibition) Act, (VAPP ACT) 2015 is another instrument that also protects the rights of citizens in Nigeria.  Persons with disabilities do not need any other special law to protect their rights. They only need to report to the right authorities for them to get justice. The other law that is specifically tailored for persons with disabilities is the Disability law which came to live in 2019! But of course we are having challenges of implementation. But we are making progress in the disability community through tireless and dogged advocacy.

Any person with disability who is experiencing any type of violence should report to the police and the police will do the needful. We have also enlightened some security stakeholders to stop treating cases of disability based violence lackadaisically and we are hoping to see more persons with disabilities who are able to break the silence culture get justice. As an Advocate on the Amplifying voices project with support from Ford Foundation, we are letting persons with disabilities know that it’s ok to speak out, and not keep silent for fear of stigmatization

You said that PWDs should break the culture of silence, you know that a lot of PWDs in Nigeria are not educated, they are poor and most of them reside in the rural communities, they are the ones who suffer DBV more, going by all these challenges, how can these set of PWDs have opportunity to break this culture of silence? How are you doing to ensure they are carried along in this campaign because without adequate sensitization of these group. The problem will persist.

The Inclusive Friends Association through the Amplifying voices project with support from Ford Foundation trained 26 Advocates in the first and second cohorts from about 15 states of the nation. These Advocates will on turn train other people in their states and local communities and also use media engagement to spread the word on disability based violence. By so doing, those at the rural areas will also get informed on what disability based violence is and what they can do as prevention and response.

For the benefit of our readers who may be facing DBV now, what do they do and is there numbers they can call or send SMS to access help in case if they are in place they cannot reach police easily or they have been reporting but the police seem not to be cooperating?

There is a short code, a NAPTIP toll free code 627. You dial it from anywhere you are and follow the instructions to lay your complaints.

NAPTIP is the agency saddled with the responsibility of implementing the violence against persons (prohibition) Act. NAPTIP means National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

Your parting words

Disability Based Violence has been strengthened by the silence people prefer, to speak out and be stigmatized. But the time to put a stop to all of that is NOW, let’s all amplify our voices to end disability based violence and give persons with disabilities a safe space to thrive in. Thank you very much TQM.

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