By Bamidele Salako
In keeping with its vision of fostering a sense of self-reliance and entrepreneurial zeal among people living with disabilities (PLWDs), United Kingdom-based charity organisation, Focus on Disability Foundation, Thursday, gave cash donations and trade equipment worth millions of naira to Nigerians with disabilities at its 2017 empowerment conference themed, “From Exclusion to Empowerment: Empowering Adults with Disabilities to be Self Reliant.”
Speaking at the conference which held at the Cranfield Bizhub 7 Hall in Surulere, Lagos, the Grand Patron of the Association of People Living with Disability, Oyo State Chapter, Engr. Prof Shafaudeen Olagoke, stated that one of the surest pathways to getting PLWDs to become self-reliant is for government and private individuals to invest in domestic mass production of the basic needs of life such as food, shelter and clothing. The production companies, Prof. Olagoke noted, would incorporate technical and vocational education and training schemes specially designed for PLWDs so as to help create viable job opportunities for them while encouraging those among them with higher qualifications to start their own businesses with the skills and knowledge they must have garnered from the scheme.
Identifying the various stakeholders in the push for the inclusion of PLWDs including government at different levels, philanthropists, PLWD advocacy groups, donor agencies, the international community and the media, he sued for a more strategic approach by each vested interest in ensuring that all the barriers leading to the exclusion of PLWDs in the society are removed.
“Government must avoid using this group for political gains. PLWD advocacy groups should advocate for the incorporation of community features such as proper curb cuts on sidewalks, ramps for wheelchair access, and well maintained trails to improve safe access to public places for physical activity,” Olagoke added.
He finally charged the government and all security agencies to work for the elimination of the needless causes of accidents that lead to disability by providing functional infrastructures such as power, transportation, standard medical service centres and a good education to produce well-informed citizens.
Dr. Toyin Janet Aderemi, the Nigeria Country Representative for CBM, an international Christian development organisation that works to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities in the poorest communities of the world, called for the Nigerian government to incorporate the United Nations’ concept of “reasonable accommodation” into its laws so as to remove all barriers militating against the inclusion of PLWDs in the society.
“To ensure inclusion, which simply means leaving no one behind, we must adopt the twin-track approach. The first part is disability mainstreaming which makes all services available to the general population accessible to persons with disabilities. The second leg is empowerment which involves disability-specific measures that provides mobility, educational and vocational assistive devices such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, braille and more to average persons with disability who are socially excluded,” the trained pharmacist who also lives with a disability and uses a wheelchair stated.
Asserting that disability inclusion is everybody’s business, Dr. Aderemi implored employers who don’t engage PLWDs to remove such barriers noting that PLWDs when empowered and employed will contribute meaningfully to the success of their employers, families and communities.
Revealing how in spite of being in a wheelchair and against all odds, she graduated top of her pharmacy class at the University of Ibadan, she told the PLWDs present, “There is no limitation except the one you place on yourself.”
Founder/CEO of BENOLA, a Cerebral Palsy initiative, Air Vice Marshal Femi Gbadebo (Rtd), charged PLWDs to move from a point of pity to respect by developing themselves intellectually and building their capacity to become productive members of society.
At the event, equipment such as sewing machines, washing machines, weaving machines, grinding machines, deep freezers, hair clippers, laptops, generators and much more were distributed to several beneficiaries living with disabilities to start their own businesses. Others also received cash donations of varying sums to scale their startups.
Founder of the Focus on Disability Foundation, Mr. Abiodun Enilari Paseda, said “This is a demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to empowering and making life meaningful for people with disability. Through our Nigerian arm, collaborating with partner organisations in Nigeria and abroad, we have been working to achieve equal rights for the country’s PLWDs. We provide them with assistive devices and regularly organise skill acquisition programmes for them so that they can be able to generate sustainable income to take care of their families and educate their children. We also help children with disabilities to access education.”
Mr. Paseda also revealed exclusively to TheBoss that the foundation’s Grand Patron, Revd (Mrs.) Esther Ambibola Ajayi, Founder of the Love of Christ Generation Church of the Cherubim and Seraphim Commission, United Kingdom, would be fully funding the seven million naira eye surgery of renowned Yoruba poet, Olarenwaju Adepoju in India next month.
“We are grateful for the incredible magnanimity of our Grand Patron, Revd Esther Ajayi, who has been a tremendous pillar of financial support in our quest to ensure that Nigeria’s PLWDs lead more meaningful and impactful lives. She’s fully responsible for all the cash donations and equipment that we are giving out today. We hope that other influential Nigerians home and abroad will take a cue from her altruistic disposition and channel their resources in the direction of worthy causes such as this,” Mr. Paseda said.
Mr. Ojo Olugbenro, who received a hair clipper and a generator set from the foundation said, “I am immensely grateful to this foundation for their thoughtfulness. We are a neglected segment of society but they have reached out to us, helped us to see that there is ability in our disability and now we are going to start our own businesses with the trainings and tools we have received. We won’t have to be a financial burden on our friends and family members.”
Present at the conference were ace musician, Sir Shina Peters, veteran actress, Idowu Phillips (Iya Rainbow), Presiding Shepherd of Genesis Model International Parish of the Celestial Church of Christ, Prophet Israel Oladele Ogundipe, and Ovation Media Group Chairman, Bashorun Dele Momodu who was represented by Ovation TV General Manager, Segun Adebowale.