NGO educates, employs Person with Disabilities

Fawaz Adebisi

In African societies, persons with disability are always stigmatized, discriminated against, segregated and abandoned, leaving them with helpless lives and an undetermined future.

With Nigeria having over 35 million PWDs, financial, societal and economic challenges faced by them are double of what the abled person faces, according to the World Bank, FAWAZ ADEBISI writes on how a Non-governmental Organization, NGO, Justice Development and Peace Commission, breaks barriers for Nigeria’s PWDs.

According to the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, NCPWD, only 4,000 out of 35.1 million persons living with disabilities are registered with the commission across the country, leaving other PWDs’ fate in shambles.

In a 2020 report by the World Bank, it was projected that persons with disabilities are more likely to experience extreme poverty in Nigeria than those without a disability. 

The report stated that persons with disabilities in Nigeria persistently face stigma, discrimination, and barriers to accessing basic social services and economic opportunities.

The report also noted that persons with disabilities face difficulties accessing adequate health services.

It further stressed that they are often being limited by the availability of accessible hospitals and personnel who are aware of and specialized in disability inclusion  and providing services for persons with disabilities.

To break these barriers for PWDs, the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), nestled in the heart of Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, made it a priority to build platforms, empower and educate them.

How we make PWDs society leaders, empower them — JDPC

A PWD taking a class for others

In Nigeria, PWDs often face significant barriers to inclusion and empowerment.  Socially, they lack support from individuals as they’re given and called bad names.

Most PWDs in the country also face challenges including lack of access to healthcare facilities and specialized services.

However, the JDPC is working to change this narrative.

As the Project Manager for the Good Governance Program of JDPC in Ogun State, Olaitan Olumide shared the organization’s approach to empowering PWDs and making them society leaders.

According to Olumide, JDPC, established by the Catholic Church, is a social arm that responds to societal needs of individuals, especially the vulnerables, including the PWDs.

He said there are two approaches to empowering PWDs; the social model and charity model.

Using the charity model, the project manager dosclosed that, since its establishment, about 20 years ago, JDPC has sponsored almost 1,000 PWDs across the state.

“We sponsor them alot, we also call for people, individuals, to support them. Recently, a person gave them 11 wheelchairs, also, the wife of the state governor gave over 30 PWDs N110,000 each.

“We’ve helped over 600 PWDs, close to 1000 or so, in terms of sponsorship, and we’ve also had someone who gave them N1m,” he stated.

He however said that the charity model wasn’t sustainable as it’s only a means to making the PWDs depend on their sponsors.

“What many people do is that they use the charity model, in the sense that they give them what they need every time, forgetting that they’re human being like us and as far as they don’t go around begging, they should have a platform that’ll help them..”

As the organization’s focus remains on sustainable empowerment rather than the temporary aid, it therefore resorted to using the social method.

“So we are using the social model, this model is that they are integrated into what we are doing, if we have a leadership, persons with disabilities must be part of that leadership.

“We train them to fight for their rights, we empower them to take the driver’s seat, we train them to drive well, and if there’s any support from the government, they must recognize Persons with Disabilities because they’re also human beings. That’s what we do,” he said.

“We championed and made Gov’t sign the PWDs Act in Ogun state”

With over 100,000 PWDs in Ogun state, according to Olumide, the JDPC, in partnership with the Joined National Association of People With Disabilities, JONAPWD, covers all the 20 local governments in the state.

As a way of utilizing its social model to help all PWDs in the state, the NGO championed the PWDs Act, which got signed in 2017, after 10 years of being presented, by the former governor, Sen Ibikunle Amosun.

Although it’s yet to be implemented, Olumide said it is one of the projects the NGO is working on, adding JDPC is looking forward to ensuring that PWDs’ needs are incorporated into government budgets.

He said, “Basically our goal is to ensure that the government invests in persons with disabilities, we are looking at the government budget and see how many percent is given to the PWD.

“We are limited with resources that’s why we look to push for something that will benefit many PWDs and it’s only the government that can do it, so we are focusing on what the government is doing.

“We are trying to make sure they include PWDs in their budget, if the government is giving 50m to PWDs every year, it will affect lives.”

Citing examples for urgent need of the implementation of the act, he narrated how a 13-year-old girl, who belongs the cluster of deaf and dumb, got raped by her bike man.

“There was a case that was reported where a you g girl, deaf and dump, was raped,  our office has to pay for hospital and the criminal is in jail now, we took him to court, he took advantage of the girl the was her bike man who take her to school.

“The parents trusted the man, but because he knows the girl can’t hear and talk, each time he takes her to school, she couldn’t tell her parents until she got pregnant.

“When she got pregnant, they now began to investigate and found that it was the bike man, we took the case to court and we committed the man to pay a million naira into the girl’s account because she must finish school.

“The pregnancy wasn’t aborted, it went through the process, she went through an operation because she’s 13 years old.”

Speaking on how the NGO advocates against the segregation, victimization and stigmatization of PWDs in the society, he said the NGO’s human right education department goes to society to educate people.

JDPC advocating against the stigmatization of PWDs in the society

“Concerning stigma, there’s still a lot to do about that. People believe that PWDs are special beings, so they see them as special beings, though there are issues that they are exempted from social activities.

“For us, we believe they can be given a chance to be a leader, and we know we will get there gradually, but for now, there is still a stigma.

“We have human right education, in that department, we go out and talk to people generally about society and how to treat PWDs,” he said.

According to him, adequate measures should be taken in providing buildings that are PWDs friendly at public spaces.

The NGO provided jobs for us — Beneficiaries

Empowered PWDs actively working

Two beneficiaries of JDPC’s initiative, Abacha Adebesin and Motunrayo Osidele, explained how the NGO has provided empowerment, employment and support for them.

Adebesin who is a leader among the physically challenged in Ogun East recounted his journey with resilience.

Afflicted by polio at a tender age, 3, he navigated a world rife with stigma and barriers. “I have gone through a lot of stigma from society and a lot of barriers have been there, in transportation, education and public building,” he lamented. However, his narrative transcends victimhood as he stands tall, buoyed by JDPC’s unwavering support.

Speaking of how the NGO personally empowered him, he said “they employed me”, adding that over six PWDs have been employed through the NGO.

He added that PWDs are taught vocational skills and have a platform where skills and products are sold.

Osidele also recounted how JDPC helped her conquer society stigmatization.

Stricken by polio in her childhood, 8, she faced societal ostracism and personal limitations.  “I  was at the age of 8 when I fell ill, I was taken to the hospital and I took an injection, after that, the two legs were paralyzed.

“Stigmatization is part of the things I was experiencing. Before I joined, some people used to stigmatize me because I was someone who’s shy. I couldn’t move around, but after joining , the orientation changed,” she said.

The duo therefore urged other PWDs who are yet to join the NGO to stop staying in their comfort zone to get solutions.

“They should not think that that is the end, they should come out, especially parents who have children with disabilities and keep them at home, they should bring them out and not be shy, ashamed or staying indoors.”

“Believe in yourself, believe you can do it, know that though time doesn’t last but tough people do. They will overcome their challenges, believe in themselves. Don’t see yourself as disabled and keep yourself happy,” Adebesin stated.

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