Youth for Christ Sierra Leone (YFC-SL) in collaboration with ENCISS, on Saturday 16th May 2009 held a day-long workshop on Human Rights, Disability and Development for persons living with disabilities at the Sea Welfare Complex in Freetown.
The main thrust of the workshop was to raise awareness on the rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities, as well as highlighting the benefits they stand to derive when they are fully integrated into mainstream development programmes.
Participants at the workshop also discussed issues bordering on the draft disability legislation in Sierra Leone, with a view to creating better understanding of its content to persons with disabilities and to make further recommendations where necessary.
In his welcome address, a member of YFC-SL, Alicious M. Kamara, informed that the organization was established in 1930 as an interdenominational organization geared towards addressing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being of young people.
He said since the formation of YFC, it has served as an advocacy group for the improvement of young people including people with disability and seeking redress for young people who are in conflict with the law.
Mr. Kamara went on to state that it is of no secret that the disable population in Sierra Leone is vulnerable in the sense that they are subjected to all sorts of indignities such as discrimination and marginalization, adding that disable people constitute the poorest of the poor in the country.
He said further that a good number of them are jobless and therefore cannot fend for themselves.
"The perception in Sierra Leone that ‘disability is inability’ has perhaps contributed to the lack of jobs, education and that of the right to participate in politics. Rather, they are left to become beggars" he said, adding that most disable people suffer insecurity, poverty and injustice at the hands of colleagues who are non-disabled in public institutions where stigmatization and provocation are rampant.
Mr. Kamara noted the right to adequate food, housing, health, education, justice, security and others as rights needed by the disabled.
On behalf of the Human Rights Commission Sierra Leone, an official, James Mathew Taylor, informed that human rights are endowed to all individuals because of our status as human beings, irrespective of color, race, social status, sex, nationality, religion, tribe, ethnicity and origin.
He continued that these rights form the basis of dignity and respect which are the foundation of co-existence in every society. According to him, human rights are God giving, inherited, indivisible and inalienable and above all, are universal.
Mr. Taylor further stated that the current global approach to disability is human rights based, as prescribed in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
He disclosed that reports from both developed and underdeveloped countries indicate that people with disabilities are disproportionately represented among the world’s poor and tend to be poorer than their counterparts without disabilities.
He estimated that of the world’s poorest people, especially those living under less than one dollar a day and lack access to basic necessities such as food, water, clothing and shelter, persons with disabilities rank the most.
He said Article 33 of CRPD calls for the development and establishment of a coordinating mechanism within state parties to facilitate the implementation of the convention in line with international development goals.
He ended by pledging the commission’s commitment to support any move geared towards ameliorating the plights of persons with disability.