Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
West African Regional Director, Ford Foundation, Dr Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye, has advocated the inclusion of Persons Living With Disabilities (PWDs) into elective positions in Nigeria.
Aniagolu-Okoye, who made the advocacy Monday night while featuring as Guest Speaker at Ikengaonline Town Hall meeting on “gender equality, women’s rights, social inclusion for PWDs in the South-East,” decried the exclusion of PWDs in governance in Nigeria.
She argued that supporting PWDs to occupy political positions especially in the Parliament would give them a sense of belonging in Government and provide them the opportunity to make their contributions in the political process.
The former Deputy Programme Director, EU-Support to Reforming Institutions Programme, called for the jettisoning of all forms of discrimination against PWDs.
“We need to treat all human beings with dignity and equality,” she declared.
On what the Ford Foundation is doing to address the gap in the advocacy for equal opportunities for PWDs in the South-East, Aniagolu-Okoye, decried the lack of vibrant Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, to champion the cause in the zone.
She also noted with concern, the lack of political will in some states to give PWDs a sense of belonging and equal opportunities with others persons.
The Ford Foundation chief lamented the plight of PWDs in Nigeria especially in the South-East, where she said little or no provisions were made for them.
“Only few economic opportunities exit for them,” she said, adding that “they don’t get equally opportunities for political positions or access to funds.”
She further noted with concern, that PWDs often pay higher on transportation as they are forced to either move around on hired or private vehicles due to unequal access to common transport system.
Still on the plight of PWDs, Aniagolu-Okoye regretted that women with disabilities rarely get married, and even when they have children, their children are more likely to be taken away from them.
She also said that the children of PWDs were much likely to be stolen sometimes for ritual purpose.
The Ford Foundation chief further regretted that PWDs are sometimes denied access to shopping malls for the wrong assumption that they are coming to beg.
She also noted with distaste that even PWDs in business rarely get patronized by people without deformities.
Aniagolu-Okoye regretted that in the South-East, only Abia and Anambra states had passed the Bill on persons with disabilities.
She commended the duo for even establishing the Commission for people with disabilities, and urged other states to follow suit.
She called for a change of attitude towards PWDs, arguing that anybody at any time could become a PWD.
Some commentators during the interactive show, harped on the need for parents to cultivate the right and caring attitude for their children living with disabilities.
Others also called for more media attention on the plight of PWDs and more advocacy on their rights.
The virtual town hall meeting was co-anchored by Dr Osmund Agbo, and Dr Chido Onumah.
Ikenga Media Cultural Awareness Initiative (IMCAI), publishers of Ikengaonline, organised the town hall meeting with support from MacArthur Foundation and the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).
Ikengaonline, the on-line flagship of the South-East has been organizing series of virtual town hall meetings aimed at giving media attention to issues of regional interest in the South-East geopolitical zone in particular and Nigeria in general.