Reaching the 4% right of people with disabilities (PwD) to work in Liberia is an arduous struggle.
But at least over 27 PwDs have now been employed in various line ministries, agencies and branches of government, as mandated by the Act establishing the National Disability Commission (NCD), commission officials said.
However, that’s not a satisfactory number, according to Madam Recadia Dennis, director of the NCD.
Article 27 of the 2005 law that established the NCD spoke about the right of people with disabilities to work and employment in Liberia.
Part of the law says that for every 100 people who are employed in a public body; 4% of the stated number “MUST” be PwDs, an employment that should be based on merit.
The 1986 ILO Convention also underpinned the law recognizing the economic and other tremendous benefits that come to the country when people with disabilities are entrusted with public and private office.
They are required by law to join the workforce of the country, but the intent of what is called a “good law” almost does not produce the expected results; This prompts the NCD authorities to formulate positive means to achieve this.
To achieve this, the National Disability Commission is working not only with the central government but also with local and international partners, civil society organizations (CSOs) to ensure that the law is respected to enroll skilled PwDs into the labor market like anyone else “Normal” or able citizens of Liberia.
The NCD director and others have pushed for the lawful employment of people with disabilities – a dream that is yet to come true.
Madam Dennis said that as of 2008, the number of PwDs employed in the public sector is just over 27, which is visible across the country’s public sector.
The exact number of PwDs employed across the government has not been given as NCD officials say it is due to a lack of data.
Liberia is a West African country with a population of approximately 4.98 million people, according to the 2008 census, but its records of people with disabilities are unclear.
As the NCD director said, they are missing the date of those in that category of Liberians – no accurate statistics about them in Liberia and the records available are out of date – a very old record of the UNICEF study from 1997.
The UNICEF study found that 16 percent of the Liberian population have some form of disability.
Of these 16 percent, 61 percent have problems with freedom of movement, 24 percent are visually impaired, seven percent have speech impairments and eight percent have an intellectual or psychosocial disability.
The Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation (SIDA) estimated in 2014 that the population of people with disabilities in Liberia is likely closer to 20 percent due to the devastating civil war that ended in 2003 and the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
“Not that people with disabilities cannot go to school to qualify for a regular job, but there are barriers that stand in the way of them not to take jobs and the government with responsibility for that on their shoulders Allocating jobs to work has to solve that, ”she said.
Ms. Dennis mentioned that by law no one should be restricted to a particular job or institution because of their disability, but that they have to choose where they want to be employed and what kind of work they want to do, especially if they are qualified .
In order for the four percent employment of people with disabilities to become a reality, Dennis calls for a change in the current situation by doing what is necessary, by obeying the law.
Advocacy for the 4% right to work continues. One of those programs that should push for it was recently held at the Lutheran Compound in Monrovia’s suburb of Sinkor when the pro-PwD advocate pointed to the urgent need to make this a reality in Liberia.
Adama Dempster is a human rights lawyer in Liberia who advocates for all, including people with disabilities in that country.
At a recent advocacy meeting held in Sinkor, Dempster stressed the need for statistical information on people with disabilities in Liberia.
He believes that up-to-date statistics on PwDs will help to understand the different sexes and different people in the population.
He claimed that statistical data on PwDs will be helpful in predicting various programs and activities that will result in more people with disabilities taking up regular employment than other able-bodied people in Liberia.
Mr. Dempster also stressed the need to examine how PwDs have access to justice from different perspectives and how they can also be used in top positions in both the public and private sectors.
The human rights activist also stressed the need for political will to advance all of these different policies and conventions.
Similarly, Mr. Wilfred Gewon, a visually impaired lecturer at the Lion Club Computer Institution of the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU), highlighted the benefits of using PwDs.
According to Gewon, when people with disabilities are employed, they become independent, self-employed and contribute immensely to the development of any society.
The visually impaired professor at Methodist University said he no longer had to rely on his father’s retirement benefits to make ends meet for him and his family because he was employed and solvent.
He is no longer seen as a burden but as an asset to his family, emphasizing the need to empower people with disabilities who, according to Gewon, have many advantages for them.
Naomi Harris, another inspiring woman who struggled through life and, despite all odds, has done very well in Liberia despite her physical condition.
Madam Harris is the Executive Director of the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled (NUOD), a CSO advocating for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities in Liberia.
You have yet to realize that the 4% of PwDs are employed at a satisfactory level and as CSO, NUOD is trying to see how best more advocacy can be put in to achieve this in all sectors of the country.
“Whether in the public or private sector, people should see that PwDs are qualified and hired and have the opportunity to work,” said Madam Harris confidently.
Unlike in the past, today, according to Madam Harris, PwDs are qualified to be employed in any company.
In the past, people with disabilities were seen on the streets as objects of pity and concern, stretching their hands for alms (begging) to make ends meet.
But as efforts are being made on multiple fronts, the narrative is gradually changing, with many of them now using higher education and other professional skills to set off on their way to empower themselves for the job market.
“Every year when you review the various universities and professional institutions, either two or three PwDs will come out and that’s because of the awareness and advocacy we’ve done so you can see PwDs grab opportunities and go to school and theirs Graduate, “says Madam Harris with a smile on her face.
“The problem we have is that if I were a visually impaired person and graduated from the faculty, I would be sent to teach the blind school because they think I can’t go to mainstream school if I go to that Go to regular school. ” “, Said the head of the disability union.
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Madam Harris claimed that the reason for setting up the National Disability Commission was not met because they have not yet reached the 4% employment threshold.
People with disabilities have a lot of potential and bring a lot of positive things to bed that is not emphasized by society.
One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, suffer from certain forms of disability, according to a World Bank report.
On average, people with disabilities are more likely to experience unfavorable socio-economic outcomes as a group than people without disabilities.
On this basis, the United Nations met on December 13, 2006 to pass the Highlighting Issues Affecting PwDs.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is intended as a human rights instrument with a clear element of social development. It adopts a broad categorization of people with disabilities and affirms that all people with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The PMD Convention is one of the fastest negotiated human rights treaties in the United Nations cycle.
It was negotiated during the eighth session of an ad hoc committee of the United Nations General Assembly.
This speaks of the importance attached to people with disabilities and the good that comes with employing them like any other well-educated capable person.
Madam Dennis’ concern is to increase the current 27 over total workforce to reach the 4% employment mark that she believes will have fewer beggars on the streets in Liberian society compared to now.
The publication of this article was made possible with the support of the Internews Liberia Inclusive Media Project.