Parliament has ratified the United Nations Convention on Disability after series of deliberations and advocacy by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Disabled Organizations and Handicap International.
The Minister of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs Dr. Soccoh Kabia who moved the Government motion said the ratification of United Nations Convention would provide for the respect of the dignity of the disabled, to end discrimination, enable them to participate fully; equality before the law and respect for the rights of children with disability.
He referred to the UN Convention as the first Human Rights treaty in the 21st century.
Reacting to the ratification, Hon Eric Jumu of SLPP referred to it as a memorable period in the history of the country and for the disabled community. He said places like schools and public transport in the country are unfriendly to the disabled.
He reminded that any able man could be disabled within a twinkle of an eye and because of lack of support for the disabled, majority of them have become public charge. “Our challenge is to address their needs. They do not have the tools at Schools and not enough brail teachers” he said.
Hon. Ibrahim Bundu of APC blamed the lack of laws and the political willingness lacking to address disability issues. He however said it was better late than never in ratifying the UN Convention. Hon. Sahr Nyuma, Claude Kamanda and Dr. Moses Sesay of SLPP, APC, and APC respectively contributed that it will be ensured that discrimination against the disabled is taken out.
Making his passionate contribution, disabled MP, Julius Nyei Cuffie said he was gratified and thanked all for the support they gave him in pushing disability issues. “Today is a day we should celebrate he said”, he said.
Hon. Cuffie said the implication of the ratification was formal as the Convention was part of the laws which impinges on government to address issues of disability and failure of which, the disabled would have to seek redress in the courts.
The disabled MP called for equal access to education, before and under the law and before the law as he stated that there is a barrier to access to justice and also revealed that there is no special need for the disabled when they visit the hospitals and schools. He called on the Ministry to be more pro-active and vibrant in fighting disability issues.
He also expressed the need to support disable groups with Capacity Building Programmes to empower them with the necessary skills and technical expertise to enable disabled to participate in sustainable developmental Programmes.
He further informed Parliamentarians that he has been actively involved in advocacy for a period of 15 years and expressed the hope that implementation of the bill will go a long way in supporting and promoting the welfare of disabled groups.
Abdul Rahman Sannoh, deputy coordinator physical disability rehabilitation at Handicap International delivered a policy statement on the issue on behalf of the director that they were delighted stating that “The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability will provide a legal framework with the aim of improving the lives of people with disabilities in our beloved country. Sierra Leone has been a signatory to this Convention for years but has not had the opportunity to ratify it due to many post war challenges”
He also commented that it was a decisive moment geared towards removing the numerous barriers that have continued to exclude people with disabilities from public participation.
By Saidu Bah