By Olasunkanmi Akoni

A Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, Project Enable Africa, has advocated deployment of Information, Communication, Technologies, ICT, as a strategic option to enable People Living With Disabilities, PLWDs, take advantage of the educational system, entrepreneurship and job opportunities available in the country.

Project Enable Africa, which is at the forefront of disability inclusion has also instituted the Disability Inclusion and Leadership Awards (DIAL).

The Executive Director of the NGO, Olusola Owonikoko, made the remarks
at the DIAL event, held in Lagos, as part of activities marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, IDPD, with over 31 million population.

The theme for the 2021 IDPD is ‘Leadership and Participation of PLWDs toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world,’ with a focus on their empowerment for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The IDPD is a day set aside by the United Nations since 1992 to promote a better understanding of disability issues with a focus on the rights of PLWDs in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.

Owonikoko explained that DIAL
will serve as a platform “to appreciate, acknowledge and reward PLWDs and others who might be without disabilities but are championing disability inclusion.”

He called on government at all levels to quit paying lip service to their plights and match words with actions by implementing the various domestic laws and international conventions.

Owonikoko stressed that in absence of effective laws and implementation of international conventions, many persons with disabilities are on their own.

Also, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Background Check International, BCI, Kola Olugbodi, urged the society to include PLWDs in all activities and ensure their talents are harnessed for the betterment of the community and state.

“The disability community is like a closed community that many people don’t know what’s happening there. And many don’t even give them the opportunity of even being showcased, or to see what we are doing, because I also belong to that community.

“So, this is just to make the world know that PLWDs are doing great things as entrepreneurs too and they need to be celebrated.

“We want the world to know that we are not all beggars. Of the over 200 million population of the country, we have large numbers of us doing great things and whose voices must be heard.

“Part of our inclusive drive is to ensure that we are considered as a priority in society. For instance, in the area of the election, PLWDs should be allowed to participate in all processes of the election with some protection for the community.

“The inclusiveness also includes having PLWDs in politics and governance. We are Nigerians and also human beings. We are most marginalized in all facets of our society and national life, but things have to change.”

Also, Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, CCD, David Anyaele, observed that this year’s event is the third commemoration of the day since the passage and assent by President Muhammadu Buhari of the disability rights Act that is designed to protect PLWDs.

He said: “We are worried that 36 months after the passage of the Disability Rights Act, only 13 states have demonstrated measures to adopt the Act. We commend states like Lagos, Anambra, Ekiti, Ondo, Plateau, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kogi, Niger, Kwara and Niger.

“We call on the state governments yet to adopt the National Disability Rights Act to do so without further delay. This is important because failure in this regard is an indirect endorsement of discrimination and other harmful practices against citizens with disabilities.”

Moderator at the event, Mrs. Dolapo Agbede, a human resource management expert, called on the private sector not to wait for the public sector in driving the inclusion of PLWDs in society.

Agbede said: “Because leadership is going to be crucial to what’s going to be possible for the disability community, which I belong to, this conversion needs to be taken beyond every December 3 for action to match words and policy statements.

“I am visually impaired myself, you know, since 2007, due to glaucoma, so healthcare in this country needs to improve. But back to the subject, a lot has been done in getting the society recognize that PLWDs matter too.”

Meanwhile, the following are some of the DIAL awards winners: Sportsperson of the year-Flora Ugunwa: Outstanding Personality: Anthony Kupe:
Advocate of the year – Lois Auta Udokanta: Most Disability CSR program – Orange Ribbon Initiative, Most Inclusive Organisation – Unilver Nigerian Plc
Leading Advocacy for disability inclusion.

Winners of the pitching competition are:
1st price winner – Adesola Oyeboda.
2nd price winner – Oseni Oluwaremilekun and 3rd price winner – Gladys Ibrahim.

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