UN Chief, Michael von Schulenburg calls for a “Change of Attitude to empower the disabled” at a consultative conference on disability issues.
Freetown: 30th Nov-1st December – The United Nations Executive Representative of the Secretary General, Michael von Schulenburg has called on Sierra Leoneans to “attitudinal change to empower the disabled in Sierra Leone” at a two day National Consultative Conference to mark this year’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities (December 3rd), in Freetown.
The two-day conference was co-organised by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) and the Human Rights Section of the United Nations Peace-building office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Union on Disability issues (SLUDI) under the theme: ‘Keeping the Promise and Including Persons with Disability in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)’.
Mr Schulenburg also called on the international community and private sector to join with the government in championing change on disability issues.
He said “It is not enough to point out needs and talk about rights. Whether in government, the international community, or the private sector, we must all take concrete steps. Making sure that disabled persons have the opportunities they need to develop their talents is our shared responsibility.”
Dr. Soccoh Kabia, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs who gave the keynote address said “confirmed that the protection of the rights of disabled persons is a matter of national importance. Persons with disability have the right to be recognised; the right to enjoy the support of government and full citizenship as Sierra Leoneans.”
The Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) Mrs Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff noted that the Commission “has integrated the needs of disabled persons into its programmes in order to monitor their rights and to ensure that Sierra Leone will be a country where people of all types of abilities are part of the development process”.
President of the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI), Mr Mohamed Kabbah said “this year’s celebration is a landslide event because the country has made tremendous progress to mainstream disability issues into the national development agenda over the last 12 months”.
In July, the Government signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A Disabilities Bill is currently in Parliament, and some of the national budget will be allocated to address these issues.
The Bill provides that disabled persons should be provided with free education, better access to public transport, and improved job opportunities through tax incentives to encourage employers to recruit disabled candidates. It also allows for the creation of a National Commission of Persons with Disability to design policies that advance the interests of disabled people, and change negative attitudes towards them.
For more information please contact Mohammed Kabbah on 077 606183 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.