SPEECH BY COMMISSIONER BRIMA A. SHERIFF, CHAIRPERSON OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF SIERRA LEONE TO COMMEMORATE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES, 3RD DECEMBER, 2015 – MAKENI.
Your Excellency, Hon. Ministers, Chairman and Chief Commissioner, National Commission for Persons with Disability, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you greetings from the Commissioners and staff of the HRCSL.
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone was established in 2004 by an Act of Parliament to ‘protect and promote human rights in Sierra Leone.’ Following its operationalization in 2006, the Commission has worked assiduously to ensure that persons with disability enjoy rights and privileges equally without discrimination. Not only was a Disability and Non Discrimination Desk set up but the officer recruited to manage the desk is very familiar with issues of disability and better able to promote the rights of persons with disabilities.
Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, in consideration of this year’s theme,:
“Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment of People of all Abilities in Sierra Leone, our attention must be drawn to the provisions in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Persons With Disability Act 2011, which prohibits discrimination against persons with disability, achieve equalization of opportunities for persons with disability and to provide for other related matters’, in respect of these persons.
In December 2014, the Committee on Equality and Non Discrimination in Europe noted that ‘equality and inclusion for people with disabilities are rarely seen as priorities. People with disabilities are often excluded from society and are invisible to the rest of the population’. Suffice it to say that this is not unique to European countries.
The sustainable Development Goals adopted at the U.N. summit in New York, saw international governments commit to promote the educational and employment inclusion of all by 2030. While there is now a doorway to substantial change for people with disabilities, the next step is for the key actors in international development including our government, to mobilize and act.
At the 57th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul, Gambia from 4th to 11th of November 2015, during which Sierra Leone was reviewed 32 years after signing the charter, key amongst the request from the Government of Sierra Leone was to provide data on persons with disability and older persons, disaggregated by age, sex and disability. The African Commission also wanted to know whether Sierra Leone has established specialized centres for persons with disabilities and also if there is sufficient training for professionals working in the health and rehabilitation sectors, and whether they provide psycho-social support to persons with disabilities. I am sure these questions were asked to ensure that persons with disability are not left behind and that they are included in national development plans.
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, the stance of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone is that rights should be enjoyed by all on equal basis. The issue of inclusion, access and empowerment must therefore be seen as critical to the personal development of persons with disabilities. Equality and non discrimination has been a strategic goal in all of the Human Rights Commission’s strategic plans.
HRCSL notes with satisfaction the enactment of the Persons with Disability Act 2011 and operationalization of the National Commission for Persons with Disability in 2012 as a means for the realization of the rights of person with disability in Sierra Leone. Yet the challenge of inadequate funding, to effectively carry out its mandate and improve on the wellbeing of Persons with Disability is hampering the efficacy of the Commission and the implementation of the Persons With Disability Act. We request our government to ensure the provision of adequate resources to support the full functioning of the NCPD.
The problem of accessibility to shelter, healthcare, access to public buildings, education and justice for Persons with Disabilities must be carefully considered. Whiles we recognize the good work done by government and other development partners, we note that very little or no progress has been made to ensure that public buildings are disable friendly; children with special educational needs face difficulties accessing the type of education required for their personal development; special aids such as sign language interpreters for hearing impaired and the fact that visually impaired person have a challenge in producing witnesses in court limit access to justice for these categories of people
Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, we are commemorating this day at a time when Sierra Leone has made significant progress to finally put an end to the scourge of the Ebola Virus Diseases. In view of this, special attention must be given to the effect of the virus on the disabled community.
Furthermore, we must not also forget that the aftermath of the eleven year conflict brought about an increase in the number of people living with disabilities and that despite the efforts of the Reparations programmes a good number of them still require support for their full re-integration into the society.
In concluding, I want to thank the NCPD for inviting the Human Rights Commission to be part of this commemoration but to reiterate here that if we want to fully realize our theme for this year and ensure government and its partners uplifts the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities then we must invest by providing the necessary financial resources to the NCPD and the Human Rights Commission to effectively carry out their functions
“Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life.” Emma
Thank you very much for your attention.