Women and girls with disabilities are subjected to multiple layers of discrimination. Based on their gender and disability status they often face “double discrimination”. The United Nations estimates that 75 per cent of women with disabilities are unemployed and women with disabilities who are employed often earn less than their male counterparts and women without disabilities.
Gender disparities also exist in education. While the overall literacy rate for persons with disabilities is three percent, UNESCO estimates that it is just one percent for women and girls with disabilities. It is against this background that Patience Ogolo Dickson founded the Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative to create safe space for younger generation of women and girls with disability. Ogolo outlined some of the barriers Persons with Disabilities face in Nigeria and the place of the Federal Government in ameliorating these gaps.
“People with Disabilities (PWDs) experience barrier’s in accessing public and private facilities, also in access to transport, education, health care, credit facilities and others, these barriers’ are even more in systems and processes where many People with Disabilities face huge discrimination.
“The Federal Government is doing their bit trying to ameliorate these gaps; recently the present administration signed the National Disability Act into law which has also made provision for the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities saddled with the responsibility of advancement of issues of People with Disabilities. Having said that; People with Disabilities still experience huge discrimination and a lot more needs to be done,” she said. She explains how the disability bill which was signed into law tends to address the issue of discrimination among PWDs.
“Having a law is a right step in the right direction, but we need to be more proactive in the implementation of the National Disability Law to ensure compliance to bridge the gabs in discrimination and marginalisation often experienced by People with Disabilities in all spheres of the society,” she added.
Ogolo noted that her background greatly influenced who she is now.
“Yes, I come from a humble background and my family contributed immensely to what I am today and it gives me joy that I have not only been able to build myself but other people like myself in the disability community. “Growing up was great because of the show of love from my family, on the other hand; I and my family experienced negative societal and attitudinal discrimination in the form of stereotypes, exclusion as a result of ignorance, negative mindsets and perceptions mostly working against the disability community,” she said.
She advised that People with Disabilities should seek for inclusion in service delivery because there is mostly no access for them in the various spaces. “For the deaf it is really so sad that communication barrier exists, you can hardly find a sign language interpreter(s) in many public and private sectors to ease the communication and proffers inclusion for the deaf. Until we begin to prioritize issues of People with Disabilities in government systems and processes, then can we have a more inclusive society that leaves no one behind,” she said.
She emphasized that PWDs face a whole lot of discrimination “People with disabilities have faced a lot of discriminations in their life time and this have affected more or less the way we behave and that has affected our lives as well. It is not easy with PWDs in all spheres of life. As a person that has been fronting the issues of women with disabilities, it has not been easy carrying my community along but it is a passion that we have to ensure that we are not disappearing in the space. Advocacy for Women with Disabilities which is the organisation that was founded to advance issues of women and girls with disabilities.
“We try the much we can to advance issues that affects women and girls with disabilities and this has been on for the past 14 years. One of the challenges that we have come across in our work is charity based, many persons with disabilities still see themselves to have everything they want free of charges. Many of them still believe that everything is based on charity so it is difficult to actually work with people that have that kind of mindset especially when you are running an organisation that is none profit.
“Many of our community members are also not educated and that is a big challenge, understanding issues and having capacity to do things, having the ability to lead and be led is a big challenge so, education and exposure can actually make difference if persons with disability acquire the basic education. “Funding also is a big issue; finance in the areas of persons with disabilities themselves is a big issue it’s not easy to empower as families are not able to empower their wards with disabilities.”
Speaking on funding the organisation, Ogolo said: “Funding is a very difficult process for every organisation and it’s a different thing entirely for organisation of Persons with Disability so, you hardly can find a specific funder who wants to fund activities for Persons with Disability and it’s not so easy for a PWD organisation to compete with the available funding that is there. A lot of funders especially at the national level don’t want to give funds to organisations of PWDS based on one reason or the other best known to them.
Dealing with women with disabilities even makes it worse because you can’t get money from women rights funder except there are specific funding for disability arm under the funding agency and for PWDs, founders with disabilities is also highly competitive because there are so many organisations that are community and disability based.
It will help if there are specific funding for organisation of Persons with Disabilities as well as organisation of women with disability because there are organisations that front issue of women and girls with disabilities separated from PWDs in general.” About the inspiration behind her organisation.
“The inspiration around advocacy for women with disabilities is based on the fact that I, the founder is in a wheel chair and having to experience some of the challenges in my life time. God created an opportunity for me to work in a disability funding agency accorded me the opportunity to gather most of my friends and colleague in same circle together and that was how advocacy for women with disability was birthed and it’s just an experience of women and girls with disability put together so that the younger ones coming after us will have space that will be a bit ready and okay for them thrive. From growing up for me it has always been a passion for me to drive this kind of organisation so that we can table our voice so that issues of women with disability which are specific doesn’t disappear from the table of discussion so, we are so happy to have come this far,” she concluded.