The National Commission for Persons with Disability in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare has on Tuesday 3rd December 2019 commemorated the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) at Saint Matthew’s Hall in Kenema.
The IDPD commemoration is to raise awareness for a barrier free environment and to achieve more developmental activities for PWDs with the theme “The Future is Accessible”.
In his opening statement, Chairman for the occasion Director of Social Walfare in the Ministry of Social Welfare Francis Kabia said persons with disabilities are always excited to celebrate such a day as it helps to accelerate advocacy for PWDs.
He further maintained that the quest for the rights to equal representation in the development process, inclusion and barrier free environment is in top gear.
Francis Kabia stated that the commemoration resounds President Bio’s commitment to the United Nations General Assembly, that the Government of Sierra Leone will ensure that the country is accessible for PWDs.
In his statement Chairman of the National Commission for Persons with Disability (NCPD) James Taiwo Cullen said the Commission has conducted an Accessibility Audit at State House, Parliament and important Government offices to ascertain the level of accessibility for PWD and that the report will be sent to the President for prompt action.
He revealed that after the report would have been submitted to the President, the Commission will ensure that section 26 of the 2011 Persons with Disability Act is enforced to the letter.
He used the platform to appeal to property owners, government officials, members of the public and defaulters to make their buildings accessible.
He called on the disability community to be united, focused and desist from lawless activities in a bid to join the crusade for an accessible future.
Reminiscing on the IDPD, Chairman Cullen said the day was first put aside by the United Nations on December 3, 1992 to ensure that a robust awareness is raised for the inclusion of PWDs in all spheres of life and to advocate against discrimination meted out on persons with disabilities.
Delivering her keynote address on behalf of the President, Minister of Social Welfare, Baindu Dassama described the occasion as a special one for PWD’s in the world over.
She further maintained that the theme for this year’s international disability day celebrations is in line with the New Direction Government’s disability plans and stressed that no one will be left behind.
She revealed that persons with disabilities are prominently captured in the government’s 2019 /2023 Development Plan adding that ” the Government of President Maada Bio is committed to change the narrative of Persons with disabilities”.
The Minister said her government is working with NaCSA and the Commission to implement a social safety net program for PWDs, a new project which is aimed at benefitting over 20,000 disabled people across the country, “when the project comes into effect in 2020, some of the challenges disabled people are undergoing will be a thing of the past”. She aversed.
She pledged her ministry’s continued support to NCPD ” we will ensure that all the necessary supports are given to the Commission as that will help enhance their work”.
President, Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI) Santigie Kargbo thanked the Commission for commemorating the day in Kenema and bringing together disabled Persons across the country to witness the auspicious event.
He said the disability community has been looking forward to see someone with disability in the Cabinet and hoped that the government will elevate PWDs into ministerial positions.
Santigie however lauded the government of President Bio for accommodating and creating space to persons with disabilities.
Minister of Sports, Ibrahim Nylenkeh said his Ministry had taken an affirmative action to allow Persons with disabilities in all sport recreational facilities free of charge, “persons with disabilities must not pay a cent to access any event at the National Stadium or any of our facilities round the country” he stressed.
He said the move is in line with the theme for the celebrations and his Ministry will work in line with the vision of the president to create an accessible environment for PWDs.
Other dignitaries that witnessed the event were representative from Handicap International, GLRA NaCSA, Paramount Chief of Nongowa Chiefdom, Sadique Kapuwa, Saa Lamin Kortequee, NCPD’s Executive Secretary, DPOs, and various categories of persons living with disabilities.