By Tabora Bojang
The Gambia Federation of the Disabled with support from Education for all Campaign network-The Gambia(EFANET) and the International Republic Institute (IRI) on Thursday organised a daylong consultative meeting with legislators and other stakeholders on the Draft Disability Bill under the theme ‘building a roadmap for the passing of the bill’.
The Bill will among other things seek to encourage all sectors of government and communities to promote and include disability issues into all economic, political, and social development policies and programmes.
The Association in their drive to promote and protect the rights, wellbeing and dignity of the persons with disabilities has been conducting series of consultations with partners for the past several years to domesticate the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and comprehensive disability Act to eliminate all forms of discrimination of persons with disabilities on the grounds of their disability.
Speaking at the forum the chairperson of the Gambia Federation of the Disabled Madam Isatou Sanyang, commended the Ministry of health and the Government in their move to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
“We are now going one step further and have asked the ministries and departments to consider disability as a cross cutting theme. We think the coming of the new National Assembly will consider us and take our plights seriously” Sanyang noted.
She said The Gambia is part of the African continent that signed and ratified the UN Convention on the right of persons with Disabilities but has not made significant progress in promoting the participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life.
According to her, people with disabilities face challenges in mobility every day and are limited in accessing social and cultural events, saying: “Discrimination and stigma are two of the most difficult barriers to overcome.”
Speaking to The Standard on the sidelines of the forum, acting executive director of the Gambia Federation of the Disabled Yaya Muhammed Bah, said as youth are taking central positions in the new Gambia there is hope that the development and promotion of persons with disabilities will be “precedent to ensure all of us have equal right and opportunities to participate in the interest of the country.”
The National Assembly members for Banjul North and Upper Fulladu West constituencies Hon. Ousman Sillah and Sanna DK Jawara respectively, pledged their full support and assurances, saying addressing the needs of the disabled is a matter of priority.
The Bill will also seek the establishment of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and related matters that shall among other things advocate for and promote effective service delivery and collaboration between service providers and persons with disabilities as well as advise on the impact of policies and programmes designed for the equality and full participation of persons with disabilities.