Nothing about Us without Us
The Nigerian society has evolved, although our laws, social amenities/structure and attitude do not really promote and encourage an inclusive society for everyone including marginalized populations.
There are laws that are supposed to address some of the problems disabled people face in Nigeria – but how well are they being enacted?
Do these laws truly reflect the wishes and dire needs of a woman who would love to work in a bank and is in fact qualified to work in the banking industry but can only move about on a wheelchair? Or the boy who walks with the aid of clutches and cannot go to school without being carried because the pedestrian bridge was not designed to accommodate clutches? What about the man who although has visual impairment wants to enjoy some personal freedom and dignity which involves being able to take a walk or go to work without a human guide? And what of the girl who cannot go up a flight of 7 stairs to receive classes in the university because she has severe respiratory difficulties and there is no elevator in the building?
The design and conceptualisation of services and amenities in Nigeria has demonstrated serious inconsiderateness to vulnerable and disabled people with the obvious consequence of their disenfranchisement and ostracization from mainstream society.
For example many government hospital and multinational corporations’ office buildings, public parks and recreational centres have no lifts, disabled parking spaces, disabled toilets, hearing loop or braille leaflets or automatic sliding doors. Public transportations facilities and ATM Machines have not taken into consideration the needs and vulnerabilities of people living with mobility difficulties, visual and hearing impairments.
The stigmatisation, ostracization, abuse and exploitation of disabled people must stop. Their talents and abilities should be sought and invited and valued and celebrated. Their rights must be respected and upheld at all times. They are first of all people and serve to be enabled to carry on a reasonably independent life like is evident in the developed world.
Becoming a correspondent for Voices of Our Future is an opportunity for me to better myself personally and professionally - enabling me do a better job as a gender and disability rights advocate. I will also get a chance to connect and work with persons in whose footstep I have walked with so much admiration thanks to the vision – mentoring program.
Secondly, being a Correspondent for Voices of our Future will afford me the unrivalled opportunity to draw the attention of the Nigerian government, public and private corporations, and the larger civil society to these issues, get support from the online community, push these issues through the legislative arm of the government until old laws are revised or new laws are made to this effect.
Lastly, as a Correspondent for Voices of our Future, I will have the privilege of sharing the challenges I face living, working and schooling with a disability and how it has changed my world views and expectations of others; I will be able to give voice to stories of other women; encourage yet others to speak out and document stories of sexual, psychological, emotional and physical abuse, exploitation and torture of persons especially women and girls because of their disabilities with the aim of changing people’s view and attitude towards them. This is a story worth telling!
I have a story to tell – a story of rejection, anger, depression, deep sadness, struggles, disappointments, forgone alternatives, weaknesses, trial and error, prejudice, persistence, hope, strength, resilience and victory. Yes! I have a story to tell; it is my story but it is also a story every woman, man, girl, boy, disabled or not – every one of us can relate with because though we have different coping capabilities; we hurt just the same as everyone else. We often experience denial, anger, bargaining and sometimes acceptance when something tragic happens to us; becoming a Correspondent for Voices of Our Future will enable me tell that story.