By Asmau Abdulahmed, Ilorin
A Non-governmental Women-led organization, Society for Life Changers and Good Parental Care (SoLife) has advocated better life for persons living with disabilities, especially Women and Girls with Disabilities in Kwara state, towards giving hope for these category of people to carry on with life.
Declaring the workshop open, the Chairman Board of Trustee for SoLife, Mr Aremu Stephen Akinyele explained that the workshop made available by EMPOWER Project is aimed at Empowering Women and Girls living with disabilities through improved social inclusion and Elimination of Gender Based Violence in the state.
He said that the project is proudly supported by United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women (UN-Trust Fund) in conjunction with United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), being implemented by Society for Life Changers and Good Parental Care (SoLife).
He pointed out that the project is a 3-year programme which started on December 1, 2019 and will end December 1 2022, adding that its objective through the EMPOWER Project is to empower and advocate for the right of Women and Girls living with disability, who are vulnerable, facing violence.
He added that in collaboration with the stakeholders who are working as a team, ‘we look for a way to bring the Women and Girls with Disabilities out of their unfavourable state’. Some have lost hope of being relevant to the society, but through this programme, we are calling out to the government and other stakeholders that they are relevant in the society.
Aremu commended Kwara state government for approving the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill, said the domestication of the bill would give improved lives to persons with disabilities in the state as he called for the bill to be implemented by stakeholders when needed, he called on the media to adequately report Gender Based Violence issue against women and Girls with Disabilities.
A resource person at the workshop, Abisola Ariwodola in her lecture said that there is need to bring stake holders together in fighting the social menance called Gender Based Violence regarding people with special needs, who are often refered to as Persons living with disability, particularly Women and Girls with Disabilities who are the target beneficiary of the EMPOWER Project.
Ariwodola gave several personal encounters with cases of violence against these set of people and the role played by law enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders in appropriating the violated rights of persons living with disability.
She buttressed her point further by explaining that societal belief system and culture of silence hindered people and victims from speaking out in times past about abuses and violence melted out on persons living with disability, which is the reason all hands must be on deck to understand the nature of these people and bring them out of their present unacceptable situations, especially the Women and Girls with Disabilities.
The humanitarian worker cum Media practitioner explained that the society often harass victims into silence, she urged stakeholders to go extra mile in helping to protect and pursue rights of persons living with disability, up to legal process point to ensure that they get needed justice when abused or when their rights is violated.
Another facilitator, the Legal Counsel of SoLife, Wonder Akinbobola who explained that more than 15% of Nigerians live with one form of disability or the other, making an approximate value of twenty five (25) million people. Added that the knowledge of rights of these categories of person will assist in a lot of ways to achieve their right.
Akinbobola explained that there is need to understand the mental capability of persons living with disability, particularly the Women and Girls with Disabilities, as well as understanding that they have equal rights as able bodied person under the laws of the country.
She analysed some of the challenges faced by persons living with disability as poverty, lack of access to education, Health care, transportations, public acceptability, and stigmatization among other forms of negative perceptions against these people.
She called for aggressive sensitization to Nigerians on the need to protect the rights of persons living with disability, particularly Women and Girls with Disabilities through the EMPOWER Project, adding that there is need for media to follow up cases surrounding the women and girls with disabilities who are victims of Gender Based Violence to logical conclusions aside being more compassionate by supporting them in positive ways.
Also Ms Ayobola Olupinla, Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists in Nigeria, NAWOJ Kwara Chapter in her contribution exposed the need for sex education to be made available to persons living with disability, especially Women and Girls with Disabilities, added that helplessness in a depressed life can lead to untimely death which is undesirable.
Ayobola, who is also the founder Help Women Foundation also explained her personal experiences of physical abuse which made her to lose two pregnancies in a swoop adding that it took God for her to remain alive.
She lamented that women facing depression needs societal help to save them from death, mental impairment and other issues that could crop up as a result of maltreatmentor assault in their marriages, adding that a sustained life is better than having regrets after the victim is dead.
She appreciated EMPOWER Project for the apt program made for the benefit of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Kwara state, pledged that stakeholders will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the objective of the women led organization are fulfilled on its target beneficiaries.
The highlight of the two-day workshop was the group work and presentation, as well as Award of Certificate of Attendance to participants who are Non State Actors and the Media, who expressed satisfaction at the workshop expressing the urge to sensitize their colleagues on expected role as Non State actors among others.
Also speaking at the capacity building workshop, Elder Wale Fawoye, a Community Leader explained that the training opened his eyes to what Non State actors such as Religious leaders, Transporters, Security personnel could and should do in supporting persons living with disability especially Women and Girls, adding that these people are integral members of the society, and aside having their own right, they must be protected, saying he would join and intensify his efforts against any form of lawlessness against them.