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April 14, 2024
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Celebrating Women with Disabilities on International Women's Day 2024 by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) in Lagos.

IWD 2024: Women with disabilities yearn for inclusion, empowerment

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By Augusta Uchediunor and Vivian Ihechu

As the world commemorates the International Women’s Day (IWD), some women with disabilities have underscored the critical importance of prioritising the rights, inclusion and empowerment of women and girls with disabilities.

They spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos at an event organised by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) to mark the IWD 2024.

The theme for the IWD 2024, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” aims at tackling economic disempowerment.

Women and girls with disabilities face compounded challenges due to the intersection of gender and disability, leading to heightened vulnerability to violence, social exclusion, and limited access to opportunities.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, recognises this reality, calling for urgent action to address the specific needs and rights of women and girls with disabilities.

Deaconess Adedoyin Beyioku-Alase,  of the Hearing Impaired/Deaf Cluster, lamented the absence of financial inclusion for women and girls with disabilities.

Deaconess Adedoyin Beyioku-Alase

Beyioku-Alase said the turf was already tough on the male gender, not to talk of the women.

She said that accessing funds and loans was difficult as financial institutions usually looked down on PWDs, with the notion that the venture may not thrive or that they may not be able to pay back.

“And without money, we become beggars.

“However, we are work in progress.  But we can only get there when we are counted as part of the society,” Beyioku-Alase said.

She emphasised the importance of education and skills, but said that these would be worthless without being put to practice.

She said that the society must begin to treat persons with disabilities “first’’ and with top priority as the law stipulated.

Ms Assumpta Khalil, an arm amputee, said there was the need for women with disabilities to be empowered.

Assumpta Khalil

According to her, stabilising women with disabilities in the area of finances and empowerment will go a long way in reducing the challenges they encounter daily.

She proffered that governments highlight, implement and enforce policies to mitigate these challenges and stereotypes.

Khalil also said that women with disabilities faced tough times accessing health care services just as they often

become victims of sexual and emotional abuse.

“Women with disabilities do not get adequate guidance and attention while accessing health care services in government owned hospitals. There is no priority, there is no empathy.

“Also, I have done my research and found out that we have more single women in the disability community.

“Women with disabilities are being seen as for sexual pleasure. The rate of single mothers is high in the disability community, and this has to stop by empowering, even with information, among us the women ourselves.

“We also have cultural norms and beliefs, a patriarchal society that is affecting us,” she said.
According to her, families do not want the PWDs to be married into their families, and in some instances, some women with disabilities go ahead to have babies outside wedlock because they feel their biological clock is ticking.
“We are then left to fend for these children. The discrimination is too much and it needs to stop,” she added.
Khalil, however, called for increased awareness and continuous sensitisation to address the challenge.

Ms Modupe Akinsola, visually impaired, said that living with visual impairment had been problematic.
Akinsola said that PWDs had become “objects of/for miracles” by churches.

Ms Modupe Akinsola

She said there was urgent need for reorientation of the public, to improve the lot of women and girls with disabilities.

Ms Tolase Kolapo, who has hearing impairment, said that communication remained a major challenge for women with disabilities even as the numbers of interpreters were not adequate.

According to Oluwakemi Odusanya, visually impaired from birth, there is stereotype labelling of the PWDS, of which needs to be erased.

“There is a multiplier effect on the negative perception of PWDS and there is a lot of work to be done.

“There is a need for governments, families, Civil Society Organisations to continue talking about inclusion because it’s painful to us. This can lead to depression.

“The society doesn’t understand that we are yet coming from a place of healing and being segregated can lead to physical and emotional harm,” Odusanya said.

She called for continuous sensitisation of the public and PWDs alike, while urging governments to learn and implement good practices from other climes on how to cater to the needs of the PWDs.

Bolarinwa Olasunbo, an Albino, said that people with Albinism faced challenges ranging from name calling to diverse forms of discriminative labelling alongside the negative cultural stereotypes in our society.

Bolarinwa Olasunbo

According to her, these negative attitude can result to depression, low self-esteem and even death.

She said that women with disabilities often end up as victims of rejection and abuse in relationships, and these result to mental challenges.

She urged women with disabilities to arise above these limiting situations.

Mobolaji Oyedotun, hearing impaired, urged governments to create enabling environment for equal opportunities to access loans, as well as inclusive environment.

In accessing medical and healthcare, Elizabeth Onayere, a teacher with visual impairment, said women with disabilities also faced challenges in that area.

Elizabeth Onayere

Onayere urged governments to use the health sector to propagate the challenges of the PWDs.

“There should be counsellors in every health centre, every government hospital.

“For instance, some children are born blind. Instead of the parents to leave sad, by the time they receive a certain level of orientation, they would be different,” she said.

Onayere also harped on the need for family and societal acceptance.

She urged persons with disabilities, especially women, to build self-esteem.

“ How do you perceive yourself?

“One sense organ may be impaired, how well do you make use of the remaining ones?

“I won’t deny that there are no challenges; that is the price that we are going to pay for being disabled. Is the price fair? No. But we are not going to let it keep us at a certain level of life,’’ she encouraged.

Florence Attah, the Programme Officer, CCD, earlier in her remarks, said the gathering was to celebrate the incredible achievements of women around the world and “to reaffirm our commitment to investing in their empowerment.

“The theme for this year “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” underscores the vital importance of supporting women’s rights, opportunities and contributions to the society.

“This day serves as a powerful reminder of the invaluable contributions women make in the workplace, our communities, and the world at large.

“As we embark on today’s event, let us reflect on the progress made toward gender equality and acknowledge the challenges that still lie ahead.

“ Let us reaffirm our commitment to fostering an inclusive environment where every individual, regardless of gender and ability, can thrive and succeed.

“ Together, let us honour the achievements of women everywhere and strive for a future where equality is not just a goal, but a reality, acknowledging the challenges that remain, and rededicate  ourselves to building a more inclusive  and equitable world for all’’. (NAN)www.nannews.ng

Edited by Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma

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