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IFA advocates free education for persons with disabilities

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INCLUSIVE Friends Association (IFA) on Wednesday advocated for free education for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) of school age in Nigeria.

IFA made the call at a news conference on Gender and Disability Based Violence during the Third Cohort Fellowship Programme of the Amplifying Voices Project in Abuja with support from Ford Foundation.

Executive Director IFA, Grace Jerry, said the call became necessary to make education free to combat disability based violence in Nigeria.

Jerry said that their capacity should be built around defence mechanisms and how to seek redress as it would drastically reduce the silence culture among survivors.

She said that previous engagements with PWDs revealed that discrimination, stigma and stereotypes played significant roles in building the silence culture among survivors of various forms of violence.

“This fear has resulted in cases of violence against persons with disabilities largely unreported and has also rendered such survivors voiceless and invisible.

“IFA therefore saw the need to build a network of youth advocates with disabilities and improve their capacity to spotlight and innovatively address incidences of gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities across the country.

“Two youth advocates with disabilities were selected from two states in each of the six geopolitical zones with the highest cases of GBV recorded during the COVID 19 pandemic.

“ The selected states are Abia, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Cross Rivers, Ekiti, Gombe, Katsina, Lagos, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto and FCT Abuja,’’ she said.

Jerry said that IFA, with support from Ford Foundation began the Amplifying Voices Project in February 2021 with the objective of training young persons with disabilities from selected states.

She said that they would act as Fellows to combat Gender Based Violence (GVB) perpetrated against Persons with disabilities through dogged and strategic Advocacies.

Jerry said that the rationale for this methodology was that advocates would be more comfortable engaging in a familiar terrain and their audience would be more attuned to accepting the message thereby resulting in a paradigm shift.

She said that IFA organised a five-day intensive training for all the selected advocates with disabilities called cohort and two with key topics on gender and development, advocacy, disability and gender-based violence.

She said that the phrase, disability based violence was coined during the training because it became evident that lumping issues of persons with disabilities alongside general issues of GBV would  not give room for mainstreaming of solutions and interventions .

Programme Officer, Gender, IFA, Olawunmi Okupe said that during the intervention, the advocates made some key findings which revealed that there was ignorance among PWDs and their caregivers on what amounted to violence.

“Many persons with disabilities are not aware of what acts, omissions or statements amount to a violation and thus continue to see it as normal because they have been programmed by society to see it so.

“Cases where family members lock up persons with disabilities in isolation or forcefully marry them off, deprive them education or other basic amenities are not just wrong but are a violation of the fundamental human rights.’’

Okupe said that another finding was the attitudes of law enforcement agencies to cases on disability based violence, adding that in most cases police officers were reluctant to hear complaints or carry out thorough investigations on reports made by PWDs.

She said the finding also revealed indifference of other members as a larger number of persons without disability do not care about what happens to persons with disabilities “who are not directly related to them’’.

She added that poverty was a major reason why persons with disabilities continued to endure abuse because they did  not have the wherewithal to fend for themselves.

Okupe said that illiteracy which could either mean the absence of formal education or absence of skills that could enable persons with disabilities become independent  was another factor.

Ms Freky Andrew-Essien, the Executive Director, Faecare Foundation and Amplified Voices Facilitator, said that following the findings, IFA called for more persons with disabilities, their families and care givers to be enlightened on what Disability Based Violence was.

Andrew-Essien said that they should be enlightened to know what was acceptable and what was not, what amounted to violation and what to do when they were being violated.

According to her, IFA wants the capacity of Law enforcement agencies built on disability issues with a view to eradicating attitudinal, physical or systemic barriers they face when trying to access their services.

Andrew-Essien called on media outfits to take it upon themselves as part of their corporate social responsibility to report issues of persons with disabilities so as to enlighten the public.

She said that this would make them more aware and concerned with issues of persons with disabilities such that they no longer stigmatised survivors of any form of violence or their family, and were able to stand up and speak up for them from now on.

She said that other corporate organisations should sponsor media campaigns and projects that protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

Andrew-Essien said IFA called on the government to strengthen social protection systems and mainstream such programs to cater for the needs of persons with disabilities.

She said government should also implement the five per cent employment quota provided for in the Disability Act.

She said putting these and other poverty alleviation measures in place would reduce the vulnerability of persons with disabilities to disability based violence and give them the means to seek for justice when the need arises. (NAN)

- Nov. 24, 2021 @ 16:38 GMT |

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