Ablakwa Commemorates 2018 International Day of Persons with Disability

General News of Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

2018-12-04

Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa

Minority spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa has indicated that inclusiveness and equity are rights and therefore has asked all to ensure that people living with special needs enjoy these rights.

Mr Ablakwa in a statement written to parliament on the Commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, revealed that out of 1 billion people around the world living with disability, 20% are poor according to statistics from the World Health Organisation.

To that effect, he has asked stakeholders to ensure the country becomes more comfortable for people with special needs by building more disability friendly projects and also formulate policies that would help improve their standard of living.

He also called for the labour market to employ people with disabilities, adding that there were incentives in that area.

“Mr. Speaker I believe it’s time to take bold steps to achieve the inclusiveness and well-being of our brothers and sisters as we all desire. I propose that we consider a 10% employment policy which will aim at ensuring that at least 10% of all recruitment into the public service and the private sector are reserved for PWDs”. The statement read

The North Tongu Member of Parliament (MP) also condemned the act of certain individuals treating persons with disabilities as “objects of charity” adding that they are entitled to equal rights as every other member of the society.

“This country must depart from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society”. He wrote

He further called for the respect of constitutional provisions pertaining to persons with disabilities.

Read Ablakwa’s full statement below

STATEMENT BY SAMUEL OKUDZETO ABLAKWA – MP FOR NORTH TONGU AND RANKING MEMBER ON THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE OF PARLIAMENT IN COMMEMORATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.

Right Honourable Speaker, I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to make this statement in commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which falls today the 3rd of December, 2018.

This year’s celebration is under the theme, “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”

Mr. Speaker, for the past two and a half decades, this day has been dedicated for the annual global observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons pursuant to United Nations Resolution 47/3.

This day seeks to communicate to the global community the need to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development. It also aims to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which boldly and rightfully pledges to “leave no one behind”.

Mr. Speaker, available statistics from the World Health Organization indicates that about 1 billion people around the world live with a disability – that’s roughly 15 per cent of our global population; 20% of the world’s poor are disabled; the percentage of children with disabilities not attending school is extremely variable and is between 65 – 85% in some African countries.

In Ghana – the 2010 Population and Housing Census revealed that there are 737,743 persons living with some form of disability. This figure represents 3% of the total population of 24 million at the time. More recently, the Ministry of Health estimates the disability population in Ghana around 7-10%. This is expected to rise even further.

In March 2018, Sustainable Aid through Voluntary Establishment (SAVE-Ghana) reported that there are more than 30% of Ghanaian children with disabilities who are not enrolled in school.

Mr. Speaker, kindly permit me at this juncture to celebrate some illustrious sons and daughters of our dear nation who have defied all odds to rise to amazing heights in this country:

Notable amongst them include Dr. Henry Seidu Danaa, a lawyer who served as the Minister responsible for Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs under the erstwhile Mahama Administration. It is worth noting that he served as a Director in the Ministry of Chieftaincy for some 19 years before his appointment as the first visually impaired Minister of State in this country.

There’s the amazing story of Madam Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, who is visually impaired. On June 12, 2018, she was elected to the eminent committee that oversees the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Then there’s the inspirational feat of Farida Nana Afua Bedwei who triumphed over Cerebral Palsy to become an internationally acclaimed software developer and tech genius in a field largely dominated by men.

The remarkable story of Mr. Ivor Greenstreet who made history in the 2016 elections when he led the Convention People’s Party as Ghana’s first physically challenged Presidential Candidate is indelible.

I will be remiss if I leave out my most precious constituents at the Three Kings Special School in Battor who continue to win laurels as they excel in their education and sporting activities.

These great Ghanaians and many more time will not permit me to mention have shown that indeed disability does not connote incapability.

Mr Speaker, as we commemorate this day, the United Nations has noted in its report titled – “The United Nations and Disability: 70 Years of the Work Towards a More Inclusive World” that a major challenge that our compatriots face primarily bothers around barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not actually enjoy access to society on an equal footing with others, especially in the areas of employment and education as well as social and political participation. Sadly, the situation is not different in Ghana.

Mr. Speaker, only last Friday,30th November, 2018, it was reported by the media that a disabled person was physically prevented from entering the public gallery of this House allegedly on the basis that he would not be able to stand when the Speaker enters the chamber. If confirmed to be true, this scandalizes this august House and we must take steps to ensure such reprehensible conduct never occurs again. Knowing Mr. Speaker, I believe you will cause an investigation into this embarrassing report which threatens to dim the image of this Parliament. The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society and so where such incidents are reported, swift and firm action must be taken to send the right message.

Mr Speaker, the Persons With Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) provides in part:

Section 6: The owner or occupier of a place to which the public has access shall provide appropriate facilities that make the place accessible to and available for use by a Person with Disability.

Section 7: A person who provides service to the public shall put in place the necessary facilities that make the service available and accessible to a Person with Disability.

Section 39: A person or institution which organises a national, regional or district activity, shall as far as practicable ensure that facilities are made available for the participation in the activity by persons with disability.”

Section 60: The owner or occupier of an existing building to which the public has access shall within ten years of the commencement of this Act make that building accessible to and available for use by a person with disability.

Mr. Speaker, the question we must all be asking ourselves is when are we going to rise up and take action as a country by enforcing these clear provisions in the law?

Mr. Speaker, long after the 10 year period we gave ourselves to take preparatory measures, 12 years on, many public buildings including Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies, Schools, Hospitals, Banks and places of worship are not disability compliant. Most of these buildings have no disability friendly facilities whatsoever. Surprisingly, even access to many parts of Parliament are not disability friendly. It is time to show genuine commitment and to lead by example. It is an indubitable truth that inaccessible environments restrict the movement of PWDs and thus negatively affects their health, self-esteem and life satisfaction which are three factors critical to successful living.

On the streets of Accra, it is disheartening to observe that an apparent majority of persons seeking alms are persons with disabilities. Many of these persons are homeless as they resort to underbridges and pavements as their places of abode amidst all the dangers and at the mercy of the vagaries of the weather. Mr. Speaker, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”.

Mr. Speaker, under Part V of the Ghana Labour Act, 2003 which deals with persons with disability – it provides for the registration of persons with disability. It also outlines some incentives that both the disabled person and the employer may enjoy. This is very much in line with the rights of PWDs to inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment which remains paramount to the international community as demonstrated by Sustainable Development Goals 4,8,10, 11 and 17.

Mr. Speaker if we are to empower persons with disabilities and ensure inclusiveness and equality, these are some of the provisions we need to enforce rigorously. In the wisdom of this august House, this was appropriate in ensuring social justice and integrating everyone into the development agenda. It’s time to make this particular law work. It is important in this regard that I commend Government and the Minister of State for Public Procurement for the steps being taken to reserve a percentage of public procurement for PWDs. This is surely the way to go. I recall how useful a similar partnership was when we served at the Ministry of Education and ensured that a percentage of all chalk production went to a chalk production company owned by the Ghana Society for the Disabled.

Mr. Speaker I believe it’s time to take bold steps to achieve the inclusiveness and well-being of our brothers and sisters as we all desire.

In the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (A/RES/61/106) which was adopted on 13th December, 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York; and which is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century, I wish to make the following recommendations:

I propose that we consider a 10% employment policy which will aim at ensuring that at least 10% of all recruitment into the public service and the private sector are reserved for PWDs.

This 10% policy should also reflect within our internal political party organization and must also guide political appointments by successive Presidents. Our main Political Parties have Women Organizers, Youth Organizers, Zongo Coordinators but no Disability Organizers – this does not promote inclusiveness. Any wonder that this House has no PWD as a serving MP? Clearly this Parliament apart from the abysmal representation of Women does not satisfy the doctrine of full representation seeing that such a critical constituency is not represented at all.

This proposed 10% jobs policy must also affect national employment programmes such as the Youth Employment Agency jobs and jobs available under the Nation Builders Corps. We should consider grounding this proposal in policy or law to show real commitment.

Mr. Speaker, we should be moving away from the tokenism where only a few reserved jobs such as operating some lifts and manning selected tollbooths are reserved for PWDs.

Mr. Speaker, towards greater inclusiveness, I also propose that henceforth all official publications such as Budget Statements, State of the Nation Addresses, Acts of Parliament, Brochures for State events and other publications of State must be published with their corresponding Braille versions so that our fellow Ghanaians who are visually impaired would no longer be left out of our governance arrangements.

May I commend Mr. Speaker for introducing the sign language communication during proceedings in the House. With all due respect, we must complete this noble effort by adding Braille.

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is also time to consider strong support systems for parents catering for children with disabilities. This in my view will help prevent the many cases of disappearing children with disabilities in some communities and the numerous cases of abandonment by helpless weary parents as I witnessed recently at the Battor Catholic Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to further recommend that the Disability Act be amended to make it mandatory for the State to make provision for PWDs in its public housing schemes just as the Nigerians have done.

As I conclude Mr. Speaker it is imperative that this House leads the charge to reorient and change perceptions. As the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities seeks to achieve, this country must depart from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.

May the Lord help us to create a new mind-set and fresh conditions for PWDs.

I thank you very much for the opportunity, Mr. Speaker.

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