By Foday Moriba Conteh
In commemoration of World Autism Awareness Day which is observed on April 2nd every year across the world to recognize and spread awareness for the rights of people with autism in the country, the Sierra Leone Autism Society (SLAS) has on Thursday 25th April, 2023 joined the world to commemorate World Autism Awareness Day 2023 on the theme: “Transforming the Narratives” at a ceremony that was held at the New City Hall on Wallace Johnson Street in Freetown.
Delivering her statement, the Board Chairperson of Sierra Leone Autism Society, Mary Penn-Timity, said that the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2nd April as World Autism Awareness Day for those with autism so they can live full and meaningful lives and be an integral part of society.
She asserted that in the world of autism rigidity doesn’t count and everyone should be patient with people suffering from autistic disorders and show them love and support, adding that World Autism Awareness Day is meant to show the world that children suffering from Autism are also capable of doing things just as normal human beings.
Mary Penn-Timity further revealed that the event itself is an eye-opener for parents and guardians to know that regardless of the fact that these children are living with Autism they still have God-given talents and they are very important in society.
She ended by calling on all to stop the discrimination against children living with Autism but rather should see them as very important children in society and help in creating the enabling environment for them.
The Representative of Orange Foundation, Desmond Spaine, said World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognized day on the 2nd April every year geared towards raising awareness about people with autism and it is against that backdrop Orange Foundation decided to partner with the Sierra Leone Autistic Society in order to give their support as an institution with the strong conviction that such will be helpful.
He also used the opportunity to call on all to create an inclusive environment for people living with disabilities more especially children living with Autism which he said deserve more care and attention.
Giving the keynote address, the Director of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Francis Kabia, expressed appreciation to the Sierra Leone Autism Society for their tremendous work towards supporting children with autism in the country.
He said that even though the Ministry has been working towards the development of persons with disabilities in the country, they are still not satisfied of which he pledged the Ministry’s commitment towards supporting the initiatives of the Sierra Leone Autism Society in order to give persons with disabilities better lives in society.
Francis Kabia pointed out that the Ministry is very committed to see that they render their support to organizations working in the interest of people living with disability, furthering that although they have disabilities they should not be discriminated against but rather should be seen as useful children in society.
He urged other institutions and NGOs to come onboard and spread the awareness level of Autism in Sierra Leone saying supporting children and people with Autism is very expensive, so collective collaboration is a huge boost in tackling the issue of Autism in the country.
Other speakers including the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Saa Lamin Kortequee, the Executive Director of One Family People, Edward Emmanuel also shared similar sentiments.
The event closed with performances by children living with the disorder as well as children from the deaf and dumb school plus an outstanding performance by the One Family Band.