In collaboration with the National Committee for the Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (NCRPD), the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Childrenís Affairs on Wednesday 3rd December 2008 held a national consultative conference on the rights of persons living with disabilities, the International Day of the disabled, at the Presidential Lounge of the National Stadium.
The aim of the three-day conference is to validate the Draft Disability Policy and Persons with Disabilities Act of 2007 to accelerate and promote parliamentary enactment as a first critical step towards the inclusion and protection of their rights.
The opening session was chaired by Mrs. Jamesina King, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone. Various stakeholders were in attendance, including representatives of WHO, UNIPSIL, SLUDI line ministers and the consultant for National Disability Policy, Prof. Emeritus Eldred Jones
The programme was formally launched by His Excellencyís representative, Ambassador Dauda Kamara, Minister of Internal Affairs and Local Government.
In her opening remarks, Mrs. King started by thanking the organizer for using the international day o person with disability to raise awareness about the right of PWDS and for hosting the 1st national conference aimed at validating the draft disability policy and the person with disability act.
"As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year on the theme ĎDignity and Justice for All,í we are reminded that all human beings have inherent and inalienable rights and are to be treated with dignity, non-discrimination equality and fairness," she said.
She said when we talk of PWPS one should not be limited to those born impaired but to reflect that we are all potential PWDS in our life time by way of accidents, conflicts, physical injury at time at the work place, illness or old age, and as such they should not be viewed as object of welfare but holders of rights.
Mrs. King stated further that it was but expedient for the Sierra Leone Government to promulgate into law now what they had waited for the past years. But she said "too frequently we develop laws and policies which are never implemented. For the very important law and policy on disability, we strongly recommend that an Ďinvestment planí to implement the plan when passed into law be developed and implemented."
Professor Eldred Jones said most times parents disown children born with disabilities. In that regard, he admonished that in as much as the government has responsibility to address their issues, the family must play a great role in protecting them. He said since 2005, he had been advocating to see disability act promulgated.
"I am happy today that we are talking about its ratification by government. As Mrs. King has said I only hope it will not take long again." He said amidst applause.
Before the formal launch Ambassador Dauda Kamara said he was happy that the ground work has been laid.
"I will tell the President to speed up passing the Act into law, and I further promise that my ministry will work with you to see that all disabled in the least chiefdom is protected and given his rights," he concluded.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.