A consultative conference to validate the draft disabilities Act 2007; and also promote Parliamentary enactment towards the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, has started at the National Stadium in Freetown.
The Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Ambassador Dauda Kamara said mankind has always struggle for recognition to maintain a balance of his/her rights.
He likened the struggle of people living with disability in Sierra Leone to the struggle of black Americans years back who were fighting for recognition, which recently climaxed by electing Obama as the President of the United State of America.
He admonished those with disabilities to learn from such lesson as there is no success without a struggle.
The Minister stated that the conference was a clear manifestation of collective strides on the part of all stake holders towards the realization of their dream.
He recalled that during political campaigns most people with disabilities threw their support behind them in return for recognition, which he noted was adequately reflected in their manifesto.
Ambassador Dauda Kamara averred that the whole problem of disability has to do with our culture in Sierra Leone as most people in the rural areas hold on to the superstition that any child born with disability is as a result of witch craft.
He expressed optimism that most of these superstitious beliefs would be dealt with at the consultative conference and at the local level where it is prevalent.
In the development drive of the nation, he said, nobody should be left behind as people with disabilities have potential to contribute to national development if the right atmosphere is created for them to participate fully.
The Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, Haja Musu Kandeh intimated that the consultative conference on people with disabilities is aimed at observing the International Day of Disability; the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the validation of the draft Disability Act 2007.
She confirmed that people living with disabilities make up 10% of the population and most of them are in the rural communities wallowing in poverty.
According to the Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Soccoh Kabia, disability has a far reaching effect on everyone as direct consequences of war, accident and other congenital problems which are sometimes unavoidable.
He noted that over 600 million people around the world live with disability with 70% of them from developing countries.
He said access to education, equal employment and awareness-raising would enhance disability friendly atmosphere.
Melrose Cottay, acting Chairperson National Committee for the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities observed that disabled people have been neglected for far too long; especially in areas of education and employment, hence they have been reduced to street beggars.
The Country Director Handicap International, Sam Dance said 10% of the world population, which is about 650 million, are people with disabilities. He said the convention promotes and protects the human rights of people with disabilities under civil, cultural, economic, political and social life.
He said 80% and 400 million people with disabilities are from developing nations with 80% to 90% unemployment rate.
20 million women he said acquire disabilities of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
By Solomon Rogers