EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE GAMBIA FEDERATION OF THE DISABLE (GFD)
-Unveils New 14 Million Dalasi Project and Others.
In this week’s edition of the column, Saikou Suwareh Jabai meets the Execuitive Director of the Gambia Federation of the Disable (GFD), Mr. Ebrima Dibbasey at his residence in Bundung on Sunday afternoon. The GFD is the general body responsible for the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of the disable community in The Gambia. In this interview, the director gave a brief account of their federation, its ongoing projects and lament on some constraints, amongst them, finance and mobility.
Jabai: Hello Mr. Dubasey, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Mr. Dibbasey: My name is Ebrima Dibbasey, the Executive Director of the Gambia Federation of The Disables (GFD).
Jabai: Give me a little background of your federation.
Mr. Dibbasey: GFD is the apex body of all the disable organizations registered with the federation. It is an umbrella body representing the disable community in The Gambia. Our objective is to empower the disable people, actively promote their integration and making them self-reliant in the development process for them to be seen as effective contributors towards nation building. Instead of being tax consumers, they become tax contributors. That is the cornerstone of the GFD. Our office is located at GOVI compound, around MDI.
Jabai: In taking care of the welfare of the disables, what are some of the projects you are embarking on?
Mr. Dibbasey: The projects that we are undertaking as at now is micro finance income generating activity for women with disability. This is a partnership we have with the National Association of Cooperative Credit Union (NACCUG) of The Gambia. It is a signed MOU for providing loan for disable women for income generating purposes. Since we signed this MOU with NACCUG, a lot of engagements have taken place. There is a steering community in place that receive applications from the disable women who want to engage in petty trading or any form of income generating activity. Over the period, we have disbursed money to some applicants, ranging from five to fifteen thousand, depending on the type of business they are embarking on.
Jabai: Apart from the micro finance project, what other engagements?
Mr. Dibbasey: Other projects include the GTTI sponsorship program. We have over a dozen of students with disabilities that are undergoing a one-year program at GTTI in different fields, ranging from secretariat, management, construction and other areas. The students are able to access the scholarship package, thanks to Mr. Mboge of Premiere Games, a sports betting company. They are the one who sponsored that package, D100,000.00. Thank God GTTI came out clearly to say they will reduce their school fees for about 40 percent so that we can be able to have more disable people who can go to GTTI to access the education.
Jabai: One thing that still remains a lingering challenge to disables in The Gambia is unemployment, what is your federation doing in addressing this issue?
Mr. Dibbasey: GFD has a project with support from Sight Savers, UK. This support was for 18 months and it was meant to march the disable people’s qualification vis- vis the employment opportunities available. The project was able to achieve its objective. The challenge that we got with that project was that most of the disable people did not have the required qualification. The employment market is very demanding as at now so most of the disables got challenges to go for higher education so the project’s has an internship, linking disable people to skills development.
Jabai: What are some of the impacts these various projects have on the welfare of their beneficiaries?
Mr. Dibbasey: These projects have raised their profiles and self-esteem. It also helped us in raising the awareness of the general public, the disables themselves and their family members in particular because some of them see the disable people as an unproductive set. Some think sending them to school is not a necessity. Nowadays, people are driving their disable family members to school and we see a testimony of that. It is their fundamental right.
We have partners that are also stepping in to see that these people acquire the skills and knowledge so that they become dignified citizenry and effective contributors towards nation building. Partners like the President’s International Award Scheme are some of the places we are sending most of our disable students to go and learn skills in various areas like hair dressing, tailoring, and so on. All these things are geared towards helping the disable to be productive. All hands must be on deck, every stakeholder must contribute towards achieving these objectives. Other partners also include the UNDP office in The Gambia, who has trained the security personnel about the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. The training was to see how best disable people can be handled when they are in conflict with the law. Some of these (police) stations are not disable friendly, we want to see how best they can serve their term without having any discrimination with regards to their conditions. Of course thank you to the Gambia government for the conducive environment we are operating in.
We have a fund raising gala dinner where we generate resources and sponsor the activities of the federation. Over D428,000 profit was made during the gala dinner. All these things were geared towards the empowerment process of the disable people. We want to make the dignified citizenry happy so that they can reduce the begging in the streets.
In a separate development which is also very important to highlight, we have recently signed an MOU with GAMWORKS, thanks to the joint steering committee of both parties. We have signed with GAMWORKS a 14 million dalasi project on the 3rd of September, 2014. This money is meant for disable people organizations and groups to access the fund and invest in productive ventures, income generating activities. It is not meant for individuals but groups. It is a community participatory driven project. The disable community must decide what they want to do with those resources. For example if you want to create a bakery, how is that bakery going to help the disable community to be able to earn a living?
Jabai: D14,000,000.00! That is a lot of money. Has the project started?
Mr. Dibbasey: The project has a steering committee and they are now distributing forms to disable groups. The forms are available at the GFD office. Once you have a group, you sit and decide on what you want to do because if they do not have the ownership of the project, it is likely that the project will fail.
Jabai: The profit raised from the gala dinner will go far enough in addressing your petty office expenses, what are some of the constraints hindering your smooth operation?
Mr. Dibbasey: Yes! We have logistic problems in the area of mobility. This is one of the key issues of the federation. We have a membership up to Basse, sometimes movement is a bigger challenge to us. We do not have vehicles or even motor-bikes to be able to run some of our issues. We use taxis, commercial vehicles and sometimes when we are called for meetings, our members do get late in some cases before they arrive due to some challenges they face on the way. Sometimes if somebody is a wheel-chair user and stops a taxi, the driver would not stop and if it is a van, the driver may not have a carrier for the wheel-chair. The mobility support from any individual, philanthropists or partners will really enhance the quality and productivity of our work.
Jabai: Finance, mobility, any other challenges?
Mr. Dibbasey: Basically these are the key issues that we have. As at now, finance has been reduced because we have raised these resources and we are really utilizing that but mobility is one of the major challenges; so that we can criss-cross the length and breadth of the country. Now we have14 million dalasi project with GAMWORKS, if we want to travel to Basse or go for trek to other areas, we do not have a vehicle. These are the key issues. We have radio programs in West Coast Radio, Alfalah Radio and sometimes on City Limits Radio. All these programs are geared towards awareness raising and profiling the disable people.
Jabai: What measures have your institution put in place in addressing the mobility issue, have you written to the government and NGOs?
Mr. Dibbasey: Of course we have written to some institutions and we are engaging partners and with this interview, we are spreading the concerns.
Jabai: How helpful has the government been towards your initiatives?
Mr. Dibbasey: Government has created the enabling environment for us to operate. They are providing subventions for the federation and the disable organizations. On July 1st 2014, the Gambia government signed the United Nations Convention on The Right of Persons with Disability. That is a giant step forward! It shows the commitment of the state in terms of promoting and protecting the rights of the disable community. We are also working on a disability bill; it is at its draft stage. We are lobbying for the bill to be enacted and it is through the government that we can do that.
Jabai: In short, what would be your concluding remarks?
Mr. Dibbasey: We are appealing to the general public to come to our aid through partnerships. We need the private sector seriously to come in and support our inititiatives. With the micro finance that we are providing for women, if banks and other institutions come in to provide support, we can expand it to men and then to the whole country. In doing that, we would reduce street begging by the disable people. We will see a lot of role models in the field of disability. Their resources and expertise must be tapped, no person is useless, no person is unproductive. It is the environment and the society that can either make you productive or unproductive.
Jabai: It has been an interesting interview, thank you for the time.
Mr. Dibbasey: You are welcome!
GFD can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org for possible assistance and partnerships.