By Abayomi Adeshida, Abuja
Co-Founder, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities JONAPWD, Ms Omotunde Ellen Thompson has demanded that Nigerian women with disabilities deserve five percent of positions of authority while other women fill thirty percent of the Beijing declaration for women.
She further warned that Nigerian women who find themselves in a leadership position should pay more attention to fight the endemic discrimination against women with disabilities to demonstrate the preparedness of the womenfolk to take their pride of place in the society when affirmative action becomes a reality in the country.
Ms Ellen Thompson who also doubles as the President, Centre for Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities told Vanguard in a chat in Abuja that unless the womenfolk in Nigeria stop paying lip services to love their sisters as themselves, the entire idea of affirmative action for women would be worthless.
According to her, “we went to Beijing in China with enthusiasm and great hopes that the world would become a better place once we advocate for a thirty-five per cent affirmative action for positions for women in the country.
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” I was fortunate to be a member of that team that represented Nigeria, but to my utter dismay, I was excluded in all of the activities that involved the Nigerian delegation throughout the conference mainly because of my physical challenges.
“We returned home undeterred and we encouraged women who have challenges to arm themselves with requisite educational qualifications and be skilled in all professions of human endeavour.
“This was a clear case of discrimination against women with disabilities among the women in this country which has continued to grow and the nation has been suffering from it as the gap between both constituencies of women grow daily.
“Up until as we chat now, rather than respect women with special needs and encourage them to attain the positions where their voices can be heard in the society, there is a deliberate attempt by women to silence the women with disabilities.
“On March 8th this year, some women gathered to mark the International Women’s Day in Abuja where issues that concern women generally were discussed, but regrettably, people like us who have been part of the general struggle for womenfolk globally were excluded, whereas we have been in the struggle for womenfolk even before some of the women in that gathering became politicians.
“We are aware that they invited just about five young girls with challenges and gave them some photo opportunities so as to do a window-dressing as if they represented the entire Nigerian Women with Disabilities.
“I challenge anybody to present the media reports of the presentation that was made by those girls on behalf of the Nigerian women with disabilities and their daily challenges,” Thompson fumed.
When asked about the way forward, she insisted that in the interest of equity, while the entire women are demanding a fair share in public positions, the women with disabilities also deserve fair attention.
In her words, “if the women without disabilities will be attracting thirty-five percent to womenfolk in the country, the Nigerian women with disabilities should be allowed to fill five percent while they fill thirty-per cent.
“It is only in cases where we cannot have qualified women with disabilities that the entire thirty-five percent can go to women generally.
“We want to seize the opportunity of the celebration of the Mothers’ Day today to make this demand before the women and we believe that they would look into the matter and give us the opportunity to serve.
“Some people might think we are merely seeking the opportunity to only occupy spaces and positions, but it is after we are given the chance to perform that the society would realize what they have been missing in denying us the chance to contribute to nation-building.