By Edrissa Jallow, @EdrissaJallow10
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Mr. Saikou K Sanyang revealed that the implementation date for the Persons with Disability Act 2021 has been forwarded to the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice for Gazetting after the short title of the act was signed off by the Minster for Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Hon Fatou Kinteh.
The announcement was made during the opening ceremony of the two-day National Forum on Disability Rights in The Gambia which took place on Wednesday 25th October 2023 at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Intentional Conference Centre in Bijilo. The event themed “Advancing the Rights of Persons with Disability in The Gambia” was organized by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Delivering his keynote speech PS Sanyang explained that “the Minister has just signed the short title of the act [Person with Disability] and has been forwarded to the Attorney General for Gazetting. In addition, the Cabinet has approved the policy. Also, the protocol on the rights of persons with disabilities and older persons are at the Cabinet level for approval for further consideration”.
Turning his attention to Budgetary allocations, Mr Sanynag revealed that the Ministry of Social Welfare has created “a budget line for the National Disability Advisory Council, subventions for the Gambia Federation [of the disabled], and Families centering program which also targets persons with disabilities pending approval from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs for the next budget session 2024 and beyond”.
It could be recalled the PWD Bill was passed by Parliament on Thursday 6th July 2021 and assented to by President Barrow on Sunday 25th July 2021. Two years have passed since then, however, the Government has only established the Advisory Council. The PWD Act 2021 aims to provide health care, social support, accessibility of places, and promote, and protect the basic rights of PWD in The Gambia.
According to the Permanent Secretary, the Ministry is “aware of the numerous challenges persons with disability continue to face in the country which continues to be incoherent in their ability to realize their full potential these includes, discrimination of all sorts, violations of rights, and limited inclusions among other things”.
However, “these challenges cannot be addressed in isolation but require a whole of Government task society to overcome them [and] I come in together as one force”.
“It is Time to Implement and Enforce The PWD Act”
Meanwhile, Magistrate Muhammed Krubally who was honoured to deliver a statement as the President of the Gambia Federation for the Disable (GFD) informed the Permanent Secretary and delegates that the state has to migrate from popularization to implementation and enforcement of the PWD Act.
Magistrate Krubally is also a member of the National Disability Advisory Council. He revealed that, “rights of person with disabilities are all international pieces of legislation that really makes understanding for the rights of person with disabilities and that these are fundamental Human rights that we must understand, that we must respect and that we must implement”.
However, according to the highly experienced lawyer, if the fundamental rights “are not being implemented and enforced by The Gambia Government and its agencies then this legislation will only tantamount to [dead letters]”.
“We have been doing popularization for far too long, of course taking into account that ignorance of laws is not an excuse although ignorance of facts is an excuse. But we are saying that it is time that we move from the popularization stage — and now concentrate on the implementation and enforcement,” stressed Magistrate Krubally.
While thanking the NHRC for organizing this initiative which converged stakeholders to discuss the advancement of PWD, President Krubally joined the NHRC Chair to remind PS Sanyang to inform the Minister for Gender and Social Welfare “to champion the crusade to ensure the successful implementation and enforcement of the fundamental human rights” of PWDs.