By Samuel G. Dweh, freelance journalist (0886618906, 0776583266 email: [email protected])
A wheel chair-mobile advocate and former official of the Malawian Government, Madam Richel Kachaje has coached Liberians with disabilities on how to be successful on their mission of getting national government and individual stakeholders to provide urgently-needed facilities that make life comfortable.
Madam Richel spoke on the topic, “Best Practices in the Application of the CRPD (Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) at home and abroad.”
The International Malawian speaker made comments during one of the panel discussion segments of the workshop.
“Don’t flatter politicians with words such as ‘you are interesting’ or ‘you are wonderful’,” she advised disabled and non-disabled Liberians at a one-day Workshop held at the Corina Hotel, in Monrovia, on March 27, 2019.
The Workshop was organized by the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled (NUOD), an independent umbrella advocacy body of independent disabled persons and smaller groups of people with visual impairment (blind) and other disabilities.
A part of the Disability And Start-Up (DASU) — Civil Society as Protagonist of Inclusive Development in Liberia project, the workshop was funded by the Italian Agency for Development.
Madam Kachaje, who became physically disabled (both legs paralyzed) at age 3, also told Liberia’s disabled persons to hold national policy makers on account for their promises made at disabilities events.
“In Malawi, we, disabled people, invite the President or top political leaders to our program to engage them on issues affecting our well-being,” the former Malawian official explained, showing Liberian disabled people one of the methods through which they can achieve their set goals.
She cautioned Liberia’s disabled community against internal division, saying antagonists ride such gap to the disadvantage of the ‘community’.
“You should always unite against non-disabled persons who want to divide you on your collective advocacy on equal rights,” she said.
Later, Madam Kachaje spoke on her own observations as a disabled person in Liberia.
“Entering with my wheel chair into the hotel I lodged in was a problem, due to absence of accessibility point for persons in wheelchairs, like me. Entering or leaving my bathroom was also a problem. I experienced similar problem when entering into this venue of the workshop. In here, the access point for clients in wheel chair is narrow,” the former Malawian minister lamented.
NUOD’s partner-organizations participated in the panel discussion.
The National Commission on Disabilities (NCD), the government’s arm, represented by Ricardia B. Dennis, Executive Director, blamed the government for ‘financial abandonment’ of agencies it has created, which causes the agency’s failure to meet its legal obligations to those the agency was established to cater to.
The Ministry of Justice, in the second panel discussion, advised NUOD to resolve its long-standing internal conflicts with all members in order to achieve the organization’s goals.
The United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR), represented by a female official, challenged the leadership of the disabled community to step up momentum of grabbing national government’s attention to translate its verbally announced policy into action.
The Christian Association of the Blind (CAB) challenged NUOD to conduct a mass mobilization of persons with disabilities.
With OHCHR and CAB in the 3rd panel discussion, the Inclusive Development Initiative (IDI) said national government should provide reasonable housing for disabled people.
During the fourth panel discussion, The Liberia Media Center (LMC) Executive Director, Samuel Kpanbayeazee Duworko, II, suggested employment of sign language instructor in all schools.
Prior to the panel discussion, other partners of NUOD, the Government of Liberia and independent groups, made remarks.
The workshop funding partner, represented by Silvia Poggioli, advised NUOD to “set a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism to address issues of persons with disabilities,” she said, adding that stakeholders of the disabled community will soon start visiting offices of government ministries and agencies to confirm if they had begun implementing commitments made at disability events.
OHCHR pledged support to Liberia’s disabled community at national levels.
The Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) pledged its weekly media platform (“MICAT’s Regular Press Briefing”), to NUOD to inform Liberia about its ongoing and future programs.
The Ministry of Justice pledged continuation of support to NUOD’s human rights projects and programs.
The Ministry of Youth & Sports (MYS) pledged to include NUOD’s members to its vocational education program at the Monrovia Vocational Training Institute (MVTI) and other vocational educational institutes on MYS.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) promised to include more disabled persons, especially from NUOD, into its Inclusive Education program.
The Workshop was a prelude to NUOD’s general elections which was held on March 29, 2019. The Union held a Congress, a day to the elections date, where a four-person Independent Disability Election Commission—composed of Ministry of Education, Press Union of Liberia, Liberia Labour Congress, and a private organization development consultant—conducted voter education. Candidates for NUOD’s presidency and 1st and Second Vice president positions sold their respective platforms to the electorates.