By Saikou Suwareh Jabai

The Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Gambia Federation for the Disabled (GFD) commenced a two-dayGFD chairperson convergence on the validated National Disability Bill and draft Disability Integrated Policy on Thursday, 28th July, 2016 at the Baobab Hotel in Bijilo.

The programme covers a wide range of topics including inclusive education for the disabled child and special measures for the protection of women with disabilities alongside legal obligations and an overview of the social services at work supporting the disabled community.

Solicitor General and Legal Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Miss Saffie Sankareh, said the programme provides an invaluable opportunity not only to reaffirm their commitment to creating a conducive environment so that all persons with disabilities are able to enjoy their rights and realise their full potential in society but also to raise awareness of the legal framework and pertinent issues affecting the enjoyment of rights of persons with disabilities. She said addressing all economic and social needs of people living with disabilities is fundamental to achieving an environment where people with disability are empowered to help them realise their full potential for the benefit of society as a whole.  

The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the UN general Assembly, according to her, is a major milestone and achievement in the history of Disability movement. She said it serves as a building block towards promotion of equality and universal access for people with disabilities throughout the world.

She said the government of The Gambia is determined to move forward with the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disability, adding that they endeavour to develop the legal policy framework to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to guarantee the full inclusion of persons with disabilities. The solicitor noted that The Gambia has ratified the convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in June of 2015 and a draft law, the Persons with Disability Bill, is currently under review to ensure that it meets the standards set out in the Convention.

The chairperson of the Gambia Federation of the Disabled (GFD), Mrs. Isatou Sanyang, said the programme is aimed at discussing the draft disability bill and policy to reaffirm their shared concern for the welfare of persons with disabilities. She said the programme provides the participants the foresight in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other international treaties which shall further provide protection for persons with disabilities (PWD) and challenge stakeholders to live up to their obligations regarding PWDs. She added that the convergence will also promote the understanding of disability issues, mobilise support to promote and protect the rights, dignity and wellbeing of persons with disabilities. The chairperson finally thanked all the stakeholders for their respective contributions in making the implementation of the workshop a success.

Emily Christie, Solicitor at DLA Piper, currently providing technical support to UNICEF, expressed delight to be part of the programme. She highlighted the significance of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities (CRPD), adding that it provides for the protection of the rights of persons living with disabilities, especially children.

In her statement, the Director of the Department of the Social Welfare under the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Fanta Bai Secka, cited the cordial relationship that exists between the government and the Gambia Federation for the Disabled. She said the government has ratified the CRDP and that the programme is important in their drive to domesticate the convention. She said disability is part of human creation and a manifestation of diversity in the society. She added that disability is developmental issue that needs to be addressed to enable persons with disabilities to have more access services and facilities. She highlighted the significance of including persons with disabilities in national development and added that enacting the disability bill is timely and that she hoped that the programme will serve as an advocate in ensuring that the document is domesticated by the national assembly.