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By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

An international non-profit making organization, Sightsavers Nigeria, Thursday, disclosed its ‘Inclusion Works’ project has provided Persons With Disability, PWD, gainful employment in corporate organizations in Nigeria.

This was made known by the Country Director, Sightsavers Nigeria, Dr Sunday Isiyaku, during the Inclusion Works close out ceremony held in Abuja.

Isiyaku explained that the Inclusion Works project essentially was to generate evidence on how the labour market system can change to be disability-inclusive, which Nigeria has 25 million Nigerians with disabilities who are also in the labour market as their able bodied fellow Nigerians.

According to him, as part of the evidence generated of what could work, Sightsavers identified that employers’ lack disability confidence, while job seekers lack self-confidence and job readiness to work.

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Corporate organizations that employed persons with disability include as direct staff include MTN Nigeria, Access Bank, Unilever, Standard Chartered Bank, Guinness, International Breweries, Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Custodian Alliance Insurance Company, hospitality industry, and others.

It would be recalled that in November 2020, the Nigeria Business Disability Network, NBDN was launched virtually with Deputy High Commissioner of the UK Government, International Labour Organisation, ILO, Country Director, representatives of national and transnational companies and organizations of persons with disabilities in attendance.

He said: “Inclusion Work project is funded by the UK Government under the UKAid programme has been very huge success.

“We made sure how receptive it will be, particularly not just to government but to the private sector and to the general persons with disability, but as we create out this space, we have seen tremendous impact of the programme, one, the private sector now know what disability is all about.

“We have created the disability confidence in them because they are now confident in employing persons with disability. Two, we have engaged with government to make sure they have a responsibility to cover over 25 million persons with disability in Nigeria.

“They may not be able to employ all of them but they should be able to create that environment for that employment. Three, the persons with disability themselves who are educated they do not have the confidence leadership kind of mentorship, some of them don’t know what they should have in their Curriculum Vitae, CV, that would make an employer very confident to give them job. Four, the organizations of persons with disability themselves need to step up in terms of understanding issues around persons with disability and take that fight to the government.

“Fortunately, the Nigerian Government has signed the Disability Act which makes it easy for persons to follow the law and say look we need to employ persons with disability and I doing that they reserve the five per cent for persons with disability.”

However, he (Isiyaku) explained that before now the business community in Nigeria was not really responding to persons with disability.

“So what the project did was to bring them together and form the Nigerian Business Disability Network, NBDN, so they talk among themselves on issues around disability, and what we have also done is to create that platform to involve government. So they talk with government around policies. We see that as a big achievement.

“I think over 500 persons with disability now have the opportunity to get the employment, not that we gave them the jobs directly but we helped them with the necessary skills to look for jobs, and kudos to the private sector who believed in persons with disability and offered employment to them, and I am very pleased with that.

“We have worked with the Industrial Training Fund, ITF, to make sure that even persons who did not go to school who want to learn basic skills can learn skills on computers, bakery, and others. So people like that can be trained and they can be self-sustained. So it has been a very good project.

However, he acknowledged the fact that, “Despite the fact that we had problems we are still pleased with it as we are looking at extending this project beyond now; on policy, environment, and honestly we don’t want to make baskets, mats because persons with disability are technologically savvy, and that is what we ant to head into that we make sure we open the space to make sure they have the skills and have access to the employment.”

Also speaking with newsmen, the Executive Secretary, National Commission for Persons With Disability, NCPWD, James Lalu, said the Commission commends Sightsavers for its effort to add value to the lives of persons with disability.

Lalu also said the Commission is working hard to ensure there is free navigation of persons with disability in the workplace.

“As  National Commission for Persons With Disabilities we are looking at how we can open more windows and also encourage the private sector, and what we are doing at the moment is that we provide and leave something on the table for the private sector and we told them that once you employ persons with disability no matter who the person is they need to reach the National Commission for Persons With Disability which procure and provide that for the workplace and make sure that he or she is competent and productive in the workplace.

“Over 30 of these gigantic organizations have already made commitment; we have MTN, Unilever, Guinness Nigeria, Nigerian Breweries, and others on the list that has made commitment in that regard.

“There is effort by the Commission on Accessibility Minimum Standard. Today, the Accessibility Minimum Standard is sent to the Federal Executive Council for approval.

“Immediately, it is approved we are going to share this Accessibility Minimum Standard to all these organizations to make sure that they provide the minimum accommodation at the workplace; provide the minimum accessibility to enable them navigate freely everywhere for them to be productive”, he said.

He also disclosed that, “The effort of the Federal Government is legendary, today, there is a circular to all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs by the Secretary of Government to Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, to all MDAs under the Federal Government to compel them to comply with the five per cent employment opportunity, which is in Section 29 of the Persons With Disability Act, and we have government establishments responding to the Act.”

Meanwhile, corporate organizations in the private sector commended Sightsavers for initiating the Inclusion Works project, which also helped to change their mindset about employability of persons with disability.

Speaking on this, Head of Sustainability, Access Bank, and Chair of the Nigerian Business Disability Network, NBDN, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan,  said, “With the NBDN, we found it beneficial to have a more inclusive work environment as business, and fortunately, as the Commissioner has promised that the moment any private sector organization takes a decision to have persons with disability in the employment they would come in to support and provide the right operational and work environment with the right tools, and I think that kind of partnership is really what we need.

“So when there is a willing private sector organization, public sector organization ready to partner, and I think SightSavers has incubated all of these, bring together the public and private sectors to work together to include persons with disability.

“SightSavers ahs also equipped and improved the skill-set of knowledge of persons with disability based on the capacity building initiatives and all of the programmes connecting them with the private sector organization and making sure they get employed, and I think that is highly commendable and it shows that there is a lot that can be done together, although there are gaps but those are gaps that can be filled.”

Also speaking was Programme Development Advisor, Economic Empowerment, West Africa, Sightsavers, Rasak Adekoya, said, “As I reflect to the 4-year journey of leading the implementation of Inclusion Works in Nigeria, I am super excited, not only for our collective impact as a consortium, but for how we have consistently challenged assumptions and learnt from our failures and successes.

“As a person with lived experience of disability and someone who was fired for acquiring a disability on the, when I receive news of our participants gainfully employment I am always fulfilled.”

A 21 year old young adult with Down syndrome, Favour Jideonwor, trained by Sightsavers, said, “I used the learning from the Skills2Success to write my first CV. Many persons like me who have intellectual disability are not exposed to opportunity like this, we can if given equal opportunity.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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