By Foday Moriba Conteh
In a commitment to raising awareness and fostering stakeholder engagement in support of the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and inclusive development within Sierra Leonean communities, the Dorothy Springer Trust (DST) concluded a successful One-Day Sensitization on the Rights of PwDs, with a particular focus on children and young individuals with disabilities. The sensitization event, which targeted three communities : Up Gun, Cline Town, and Culvert Communities was held on Monday, September 4, 2023.
The Program Manager for Dorothy Springer Trust, Sheku Kabba, emphasized that globally PWDs face a myriad of challenges, including exclusion, discrimination, limited access to healthcare, education, employment, and various other pressing social issues. Citing Sierra statistics derived in Sierra Leone, he revealed that approximately 93,129 individuals, constituting 1.3% of the population, live with disabilities in the country, each grappling with daily challenges.
The primary objectives of the one-day sensitization program were to bolster stakeholders’ commitment to creating inclusive environments for PWDs within their communities, advocate for policies accommodating PWDs and enhancing their livelihoods, and promote awareness and commitment to equal opportunities for this segment of the population.
Kabba reported that the sensitization event succeeded in increasing awareness and stakeholders’ commitment towards providing equal opportunities for PWDs. Additionally, it helped establish a network of organizations and individuals dedicated to disability inclusion and action plans to drive progress in this area.
In conclusion, Kabba stressed the critical role of the one-day sensitization in altering perceptions surrounding PWDs, reducing discrimination and exclusion, and creating inclusive work environments with equal opportunities for all, adding that the program has provided a tangible platform for driving progress in disability inclusion within the community and Sierra Leone as a whole.
Community stakeholders, like Osman Bangura from Culvert Community, commended Dorothy Springer Trust for the laudable sensitization initiative. Bangura recognized the importance of community awareness regarding the necessity for accessible facilities and services for PWDs, which can prompt local authorities to make essential improvements. He pledged, as community stakeholders, to advocate for the upholding of the rights of PWDs within their communities.
Fatmata Kamara, a resident of Up Gun Community, expressed her appreciation for Dorothy Springer Trust’s sensitization drive. She highlighted the significance of such sensitization in building inclusive, equitable, and compassionate societies where individuals, regardless of their abilities, can lead fulfilling lives and make meaningful contributions to their communities. Kamara vowed to become an ambassador for promoting the rights of PWDs within her community, inspired by the sensitization drive.
In summary, DST’s One-Day Sensitization on the Rights of PwDs has made significant strides towards fostering understanding, empathy, and commitment to the inclusion and well-being of PWDs in Sierra Leonean communities. This initiative marks a crucial step in building a more inclusive society, recognizing the value and potential of every individual.