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13.06.2004 General News

Persons with disabilities urged parliament to pass bill

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Tamale, June 13, GNA - Persons with disabilities in the Northern Region have called on Parliament to pass the Disability Policy Bill brought before it without any further delay, saying the bill was their life blood that would make society to respect their rights and liberties.

Madam Mercy Apoe, Chairperson of the Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities in the region, who made the call said Parliament was discriminating for delaying the bill, while they continue to pass other bills everyday.

She reminded Parliamentarians that since disabilities had no exemptions, it would be better for them to speed up with the Bill and stop paying lip-service to it.

Madam Apoe was speaking at Press Soiree organised for the media in Tamale to raise their concerns to enable the media to help convey them to the government and the general public for redress.

She said: "We are citizens of Ghana and so we must enjoy equal rights and equal opportunities as other citizens", pointing out that, "the denial of these rights by society sometimes make us aggressive in our quest to fight for them". Madam Apoe said persons with disabilities in the Tamale Metropolis, even though they needed more empowerment to enable them to undertake income-generating ventures to support themselves and those of their families.

She said the Metropolitan Assembly had denied them the Poverty Alleviation Fund, adding, that, it was sad to hear government officials saying persons with disabilities would not be able to pay back loans when they had not tried them.

She appealed to the government to allocate a percentage of the fund for persons with disabilities to stop the discrimination in the disbursement of the fund by some of the assemblies.

She called on women development-oriented NGOs in the region to always involve women with disabilities in their activities, especially those that are geared towards poverty eradication.

Madam Apoe also called for the establishment of a separate fund for persons with disabilities to empower them to contribute their quota to the national economy She urged the Regional House of Chiefs in the three Northern Region to review the traditional and customary laws that disqualify persons with disabilities from becoming chiefs, saying, "we should be considered for such leadership positions since disabilities is never disability."

Mr Felix Dery, Deputy Country Representative of Action on Disability and Development (ADD) said disabled people formed 10 percent of every population in the world and 20 percent of the world's poorest. He said 82 percent of persons with disabilities live below the poverty line in developing countries and these figures would be high in countries devastated by civil war or natural disasters He said persons with disabilities in all parts of the world experience discrimination and were widely excluded from the social, economic and political life of the community.

Mr Dery noted that organizations for persons with disabilities rather than organizations made up of disabled persons themselves had provided segregated services with little or no recognition of disabled persons' rights to participate as equal citizens. He said governments had rarely considered the needs of disabled persons when formulating their development agenda and had in most cases, not made sufficient efforts to consult representatives of the disability community.

He said equally, many donors, aid agencies and mainstream development NGOs do not consider the particular needs of disabled persons in their programmes or projects.

"Many do not have or practice policies of disability equality and thus exclude disabled persons from their activities," he added. Mr Dery noted that this exclusion was the basic cause of high rats of poverty among disabled persons in the poorest countries and this had resulted in the death of many disabled persons.

He called on the media in the country to advocate and support the human rights of the disabled, rather than the charitable or medical approach systems. 13 June 04

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