Women with disabilities, under the aegis of Cedar Seeds Foundation, have asked the Nigerian government to support the empowerment of women especially those with disabilities by passing and assenting to the Nigeria Disability Right Bill which is currently at the Senate.
Lois Aula, the Executive Director of the organisation, at a press conference on Monday in Abuja, called on the Senate to pass the proposed law which has scaled through second reading, to protect the rights of disabled people, especially women in the country.
Ms. Aula said for too long, women with disabilities had been sidelined, marginalised and left behind from development agenda even within the women folk.
“We are tired, that is why we came up with the idea of creating an awareness to the general public on women disabilities issues by this press conference and awareness walk on Wednesday from Unity Fountain to the National Assembly here in Abuja.
“People with disabilities are usually discriminated against within the society and women are mostly at the receiving end. It is usually double discrimination for women with disabilities because we have to face discrimination in the society as a woman and as a disabled person.
“This makes it more difficult for us to perform within the society. This makes it extra effort. Women with disabilities have equal rights like any other human being, we have potentials, abilities, gifts, they are brilliant, intelligent and have what it takes to make it work for themselves and their families”, she said.
Ms. Aula said Cedar Seed Foundation, Voice of Disability Initiative, Deaf Women Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Human Rights Commission and Potter Gallery are joining women all over the world and in particular in Nigeria to commemorate the International Women’s Day and clamour for their voices to be heard.
The Executive Director said the NGO chose the sub theme “Leave No One Behind” because gender issues need to be mainstreamed and a lot of efforts and progress have been recorded at regional and international level towards achieving gender equality, empowering women and elevating them political, economically, socially and culturally.
Catherine Edeh, the first female deaf lawyer in Nigeria and founder of Voice of Disability Initiative, also an implementing partner of the awareness walk, said the walk is necessary to compel the Senate to pass the disability bill.
“We don’t have information about what is happening to the bill, all we know is that the bill has passed through second reading. The discontinuity and change in government has also been a detrimental factor. We used to follow up with the bill with the former clerk of the house, but now that the clerk has changed we don’t really have any information any longer.
“As a lawyer, I am really interested in the bill, we need to know what is happening as the government is holding our rights in their hands. I as a lawyer cannot practice because the law does not support us.
“They need to sign the law as it is the only thing that can back us up in the society. Signing of the Bill will help our future and also assist our children,” she said.
Helen Alase, also an implementing partner and FCT Chairperson for Deaf Women Association, Abuja said they were pushing for the passage of the Bill because it is the only way to help and protect women with disabilities.
“I can remember an incident of a pregnant eight months deaf woman who couldn’t communicate effectively with her doctors. In fact, when one of the doctors saw her, he said ‘double trouble’, which is double discrimination for her.
“She eventually had medical complications which could have been avoided if there were proper communication facilities available for people with disabilities. That is why we are clamouring for quick interventions,” she said.
Ms. Alase said the bill covers all the challenges faced by people with disabilities and will lessen the communication gap. She said disability is not a barrier and should not be treated as one.
“All we are asking for is the opportunity and support and we will deliver exceedingly well as some of the women are doctors, nurses, lawyers, among others.
“The bill will also encourage many physically challenged people to be useful in the society and reduce street beggars.
“We are also using this month to lobby for the total elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls which come in various ways.
“We want due legislation and assent on the Nigeria Disability Right Bill and other Bills intended to safeguard the rights of women and other disadvantaged groups”, she said.