Persons living with disabilities have been encouraged to develop their self-esteem despite their disabilities.
The encouragement came when a civil society group, Women’s Rights And Health Project (WRAHP) held a community town hall meeting to follow up on implementation of priorities identified in initial meetings with people living with disability in Ikotun Igando Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State.
In one of its researches, WRAHP earlier identified Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State as the Local Council with the highest rate of gender based violence in the state hence the sensitisation programs in various LCDAs in the Local Government Area.
One of the participants and Chairman National Association of People With Disability, Igando Ikotun unit, Town Planner Akinbode Olukunle Samson at the event explained that the association has been enlightening its members on the need to be bold to take up their rights in the society.
“The association has been going on fine and we have been guiding people with disabilities in the right channel and they believe we cannot lead them astray. This is what we have been doing since 2018,” he said.
Applauding WRAHP for its commitment to the plight of physically challenged individuals in the Local Government, Samson said, “WRAHP is doing a great thing in our lives because people living with disabilities are not very bold and this is traceable to their parents. They would say why should they waste my money on a child with disability and that is what is not making them bold when they are discriminated against,” he said.
Continuing, he said people living with disabilities are often not confident largely because of their lack of adequate education caused by their parents.
“They have inferiority complex and we have been sensitising them that your right is your right, if they cannot speak up, they should tell us. We will take it up. Without education there is nothing they can do, I can talk up to anybody and get my right. We have been trying to make them have the liberty,” he said.
Stating further, he said, “The government is trying by making sure people with disabilities are living well. I can say the government is making provision to have people with disabilities fill ten percent of the space in the employment.”
He also stressed that the government should ensure people living with disabilities are those to be employed in offices addressing disability issues.
Another participant at the event, Abiodun Oluwaniranmi affirmed that people living with disabilities are prone to abuse because they are already seen as disadvantaged by physical appearance.
“We all know that anybody with disability is prone to abused. The person is already disadvantaged. Looking at my own cluster, there is a limit to the activities we can carry out because of our disability in movement,” she lamented.
Oluwaniranmi, who studied Education Administration at the University of Lagos despite her disability cited the possibility of a person on wheelchair being abused. “Take for instance someone on wheel chair being abused, there is a limit to the resistance because of the way we were brought up, people living with disabilities already see themselves secluded, so when we are in a situation where we are being abused, we conceal it, we don’t want to be put to shame.
“We see people even relating with us as a privilege, so for people not to reject us, we tend to accept things. We see people accepting us as a great privilege for allowing us mingle with them. So when we now have any kind of abuse, we don’t speak up because we don’t want people to reject us,” she said.
According to her, what people living with disability deserve is encouragement and not pity. “Nobody needs pity. People should not come to us with pity. It is the mindset of pity that makes people abuse us.
“When men ask females with disabilities out, if she refuses, they would ask why she is refusing and they would make it look as if they are coming to help. They want us bow our heads in shame because they believe whatever happens to us is what we caused, people want us to be pitied,” she said.
Narrating her experience at the University of Lagos, she lamented how the system does not make provision for people living with disabilities.
“At UNILAG, I didn’t have a place to live, I didn’t even know I should have a place as a fresh student. They did ballot in the school but I didn’t get a space, I got a friend but she felt I was coming to be a burden. It was not convenient to get water, we would go out to get water to bathe, it was difficult so instead of being a burden I would go out very early to have my bathe. Even if my class would start by 9am, I would bathe as early as 5am. This caused a kind of gap between my friend and I but I thank God for my parents; they didn’t raise me to be a burden,” she said.
She however commended the little the Lagos State government is doing to better the lot of the persons living with disabilities but worried many states in Nigeria are still not awake to the plight of people living with disabilities.
“Many other states are not aware of the laws guiding the people living with disabilities. The only thing is that when it is time for election, they get them rice, they see them as pity party, they gather them, use them to campaign and that is all,” she lamented.
In her own comment, Ibukunoluwa Emiola of WRAHP who noted that the attendance was appreciable though many more were expected, stated that, people living with disabilities are vulnerable in the society and should be assisted.
On why the organisation decided to take the session with only the cluster, she said, “With their disability and mental health capacity, you can obviously see they are vulnerable. People seem to abuse them and pull them down. They are also part of the community of people who experience domestic violence so they are inclusive.
“We have been doing that for able bodied people since but they don’t come out, if we call them together with the able bodied they won’t come out. They want to be identified with their fellow people living with disabilities. That is where they fell that sense of belonging. By the time you gather them, they feel you have their concern at heart. This is just a cluster, they have various clusters,” she said.
Correcting the notion that physically challenged persons are hostile, she said sometimes they may perceived to be hostile when they want to have their voices heard.
“Not all of them are hostile. Even among able bodied people there are violent persons. What happens is that they become violent when they are trying to communicate and you are not giving them attention. Not that they are violent, it is their own way of communicating.
“They only show they are being abused and they are trying to communicate but you are not willing to listen to give them attention. It is their way of communicating,’ she reiterated.
She also agreed that abuses take place in the clusters of persons with disabilities.
“Yes abuse do happen among them in their clusters. Probably someone who can walk but cannot see is dating someone without leg, because they date themselves. Someone who can walk can threaten not to walk someone who can’t walk because of one disagreement or the other between them. It is a way of oppression.”
On reasons they hardly report abuses such as rape, Emiola said, “Sometimes they don’t report rape cases because of their disability. There was a case of a girl that was raped and some people were telling her she should just be thanking God that who would have married her. Out of that rape there was pregnancy.
“They were telling her who would have married her, she should just be thanking God and take care of her child. They don’t want to talk about it because people would say you of all people, who would rape you? And that is how many of them do not report and that is why we have come to educate them. We are here to help them, we are not like others that will just hear their cases and keep quiet.”
WRAP according to her specialises in getting justice for the people with disabilities and minors.
The organisation also engages in research, provides psycho-social counseling and legal intervention.
The event sponsored by the British Council, European Union and Rule of Law and Anti Corruption drew participants from the cluster of the physically challenged persons in Ikotun Igando area.