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National Stakeholders Convene to Propel Disability Rights Forward

Abuja, Nigeria – June 27, 2024 – In a powerful testament to the ongoing struggle for disability rights, key stakeholders gathered at the Grand Cubana Hotel in Jabi, Abuja, for a two-day national co-creation event organized by the Centre for Ability, Rehabilitation, and Empowerment (CARE) and funded by OXFAM/VOICE. The convening, themed “The National Disability Act Post-Moratorium: Advancing Inclusion and Accessibility for Those Vulnerable and Outside the Margins,” marked a significant milestone in the collective effort to advocate for the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

The event opened with an inspiring address by Dr. Chike Okogwu, Chief Responsibility Officer of CARE. Dr. Okogwu reflected on the organization’s journey from the early days of advocacy to the recent achievements under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who signed the African Union Charter on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “From the days of no disability laws to the historic signing of the African Union Charter, we have come a long way,” Dr. Okogwu noted.

A Journey of Triumph and Resilience

Dr. Okogwu emphasized the resilience and determination of PWDs in the face of significant challenges. “We have witnessed the struggles and triumphs of PWDs. We have seen the devastating impact of stigma, discrimination, and exclusion. But we have also seen the power of resilience, determination, and collective action,” he said. He acknowledged the invaluable support from partners such as OXFAM/VOICE in advancing the cause.

Celebrating the enactment of the National Disability Act, Dr. Okogwu highlighted the progress made and the work that still lies ahead. “Our journey began with a dream of a society where PWDs are valued and included. Today, we celebrate the National Disability Act, a testament to our collective efforts. However, we also recognize the work ahead,” he stated. He outlined CARE’s renewed hope agenda, envisioning a future where PWDs have equal access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, and where stigma and discrimination are eradicated.

Commitment to Co-Creation and Inclusivity

Dr. Okogwu’s address was followed by remarks from Abel Olumuyiwa Enitan, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, represented by Mrs. Ngozi Agnes Aneke. Enitan applauded the efforts of CARE and OXFAM/VOICE in supporting the PWD Community of Practice. “The Centre for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment and OXFAM/VOICE have done remarkable work in supporting the PWD Community of Practice,” he said.

Highlighting the significant strides made since President Tinubu’s signing of the African Union Charter, Enitan detailed the strengthening of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the development of the National Disability Policy, and the increase in accessibility features in public infrastructure. “We have made significant strides: strengthening of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, development of the National Disability Policy, increase in accessibility features in public infrastructure, and enhanced access to education and healthcare for PWDs,” he stated.

Renewed Hope Agenda

Enitan emphasized that while progress has been made, much more needs to be done. “Yet, we acknowledge that more needs to be done. The National Disability Act post-moratorium presents an opportunity to intensify our efforts,” he said. He outlined the ministry’s renewed hope agenda, prioritizing inclusive education and economic empowerment, accessible healthcare and social services, increased representation in governance and decision-making, and challenging stigma and discrimination.

“We envision a brighter future where PWDs are equal participants in society, empowered with skills and resources, valued for their contributions, and respected and included in all aspects of life,” Enitan asserted. He reaffirmed the ministry’s dedication to driving this vision forward in collaboration with stakeholders like CARE and OXFAM/VOICE.

A Collective Effort for a Brighter Future

The convening concluded with a strong call to action. Dr. Okogwu and Enitan both underscored the importance of collective effort and partnership in realizing the vision for a more inclusive Nigeria. “We are committed to co-creating this future with you. Together, we will empower PWDs with skills and resources, challenge harmful stereotypes and biases, advance accessible and inclusive development, and celebrate the diversity and contributions of PWDs,” Dr. Okogwu affirmed.

The event marked not just a celebration of past achievements but also a commitment to future endeavors. As stakeholders departed, there was a palpable sense of hope and determination to continue the journey towards a society where every individual, regardless of ability, has the opportunity to thrive.

In the words of Dr. Okogwu, “Let us continue to walk this journey together, with hope, determination, and a shared vision for a brighter future.”

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