Health official bemoan violation of disability rights in Gambia
|Mamadou Edrisa Njie, Publisher of Mansa Banko was there|
Given the provisions of the 1997 Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia, section 31 clearly states that persons living with disabilities (PLWD) “shall not be discriminated against”.
However, the Disability Desk Officer at the department of state for health and social welfare, on Tuesday laments the numerous violations of the rights of PLWD in the Gambia, at the opening of two-day “training for Gambian journalists on disability reporting”.
“Despite the constitutional provision of rights, it is disheartening to see that the rights of persons living with disabilities are violated every day, be it Gambians or non-Gambians,” Mr. Sainey Camara said on behalf of the Director of Social Welfare.
The training (February 7-8, 2012), organised by the Gambia Federation of the Disabled (GFD), and held in Serrekunda, Gambia’s largest town, is funded by the European Union through its Non-state Actors Strengthening Programme (NSASP).
The Gambia is a signatory to almost all international and regional human rights instruments but fall short of ratifying and domesticating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
State parties to the Convention must “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”
“Disability is a very touching issue and no person is immune to it. Disability is a cross cutting issue and needs the attentions of all,” Mr. Camara told journalists. “Persons living with disabilities need personal and economic independence and inclusion in decision making processes and above all they need to be respected.”
He calls for public change of attitudes towards PLWD in The Gambia, and urges journalists to avoid using degrading terminologies when reporting on issues of disabilities.
Ndela Faye, Disability Programme Manager, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) laments that a lot of issues affecting the disability community in the country remain largely unreported, but hopes the training will address that.
She said VSO strongly subscribe to the ideals of equal access to information and basic social necessities, and persons with disabilities have rights like other individuals and this have to be respected.
“Only one local newspaper (Freedom) has dedicated a column on disability issues in The Gambia,” GFD Secretary General, Mr. Ebrima Dibbasey said, while exhorting the Gambia Government to ratify and domesticate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Earlier, the Coordinator of the NSASP in The Gambia, Liseli Bull, exhort journalists to step-up their reportage on issues affecting persons living with disabilities, especially on the usage of language.
She said the “Cotonou Agreement” agreement supports Non-State Actors (NSAs) in all its forms and that the training marks the beginning of their working relationship with the media.
Bull noted that The Gambia is a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement which provides the opportunity for the participation of civil society organisations, economic and social partners and the private sector in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP).
The Cotonou Agreement of June 2000 signed in Benin between the EU and 77 countries in the ACP, is aimed at creating conditions for greater equity and access by the poor to the benefits of economic growth.
Police actions and Court orders
Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
In Gambia, the police have brought charges on several occasions against street-beggars, most of who are living with disabilities. The charges, “causing public nuisance” are mainly brought before the Kanifing district Magistrate Court.
However, they are hardly convicted and in most cases acquitted and discharge by the courts.
Author: Modou S. Joof