By: Mawusie P.I Dumbuya
Information Communication and Outreach Manager
National Commission for Persons with Disability
Sierra Leone, located in West Africa, is known for its rich cultural heritage and diverse population. However, like many other nations, it is not immune to the prevalence of stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding persons with disabilities. These individuals have long been subjected to discrimination and marginalization, hindering their full social participation. Therefore, it is crucial to demystify the myths and challenge the preconceived notions surrounding disabilities in Sierra Leone. Below are five myths that some members of society share, and this piece will contradict their beliefs.
1. Persons with disabilities cannot live independently
The first myth needing debunking is that persons with disabilities cannot live independently. This perception is false and undermines the potential and abilities of individuals with disabilities. In Sierra Leone, there are countless examples of people with disabilities who have achieved remarkable success in various fields. For instance, James T. Cullen, the Chairman of the National Commission for Persons with Disability, became the first PWD to own and operate a radio station. The Executive Secretary of NCPD is also a guru in administration, and there are disabled professional in all works of life. If one decides to make a list, this article will solely be dedicated to profiling thousands of PWDs nationwide. By highlighting such achievements, we can challenge the myth that persons with disabilities cannot live independent lives.
2. Disabilities result from past wrongdoings or curses
Another prevalent misconception in Sierra Leone is the belief that disabilities are a consequence of past wrongdoings or curses. Such views perpetuate stigma and discrimination, making it difficult for individuals with disabilities to integrate into society. It is essential to educate the public about the actual causes of disabilities, which can range from genetic factors to accidents or illnesses. By dispelling this myth, we can promote empathy and understanding among the populace, fostering an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities.
3. Persons with disabilities are a burden on society
A common misconception surrounding disabilities is that persons with disabilities are burdens on society, requiring constant care and attention. This myth not only undermines the capabilities of individuals with disabilities but also ignores their potential contributions to the community. In reality, persons with disabilities possess unique skills and talents that can positively impact various domains, including arts, sports, and academia. By showcasing the achievements of persons with disabilities, Sierra Leone can shatter this myth and promote a more inclusive and supportive society.
4. Persons with disabilities cannot contribute to the workforce
Linked to the previous myth, the belief that persons with disabilities cannot contribute to the workforce is misleading and detrimental to their economic empowerment. Several organizations and initiatives in Sierra Leone aim to provide vocational training and employment opportunities specifically targeted towards persons with disabilities. These initiatives have proven successful, with individuals with disabilities excelling in various professions, including entrepreneurship, teaching, and technology. By highlighting these success stories, we can challenge the myth that persons with disabilities cannot contribute meaningfully to the workforce.
5. Charitable approach best fits PWDs
Individuals believed that people with disabilities should only be subjected to the charitable model for their well-being and depend on people for their daily bread all the days of their lives. However, the UN CRPD and other international instruments of the rights of PWDs make it clear that there is more to the charitable model and that if the rights of PWDs are adequately flagged, the limit will be above the skies to achieve an inclusive society. Perhaps, more importantly, the 2011 Persons with Disability Act in Sierra Leone has set the stage in accentuating that the charitable model is not the right way to go as it might leave PWDs in the abs of society. The right base approach have helped nipped in the mud the baseless perception of ‘leh we sorry for dem normore’ and this has create a platform for PWDs to take their rightful place in society.
Demystifying the myths surrounding persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone is crucial for fostering an inclusive and equitable society. By challenging preconceived notions and highlighting the achievements and potential of individuals with disabilities, we can break down barriers and create a more accepting environment. Promoting an inclusive society will not only benefit persons with disabilities but will also contribute to the overall progress and development of Sierra Leone as a whole.