This is the statement delivered by a representative of the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Welfare on Wednesday 25th October 2023 during the National Human Rights Commission’s two-day National Forum on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Below is a speech from the government highlighting their efforts in implementing the Disabilities Act 2021.
IMPLEMENTATION DISABILITY ACT 2021
Distinguished personalities and stakeholders, it is apparent that disability is a cross-cutting issue that requires to be addressed in all spheres of life be it at home, community, national, regional and international level. Unfortunately, the reality at all these levels leaves much to be desired hence the inequalities socially, economically and accessibility for assistive devices (technical aid and appliances). The gross lack and inadequate availability of such basic amenities for persons with disabilities mars their image in society, thus subjecting them to discrimination, marginalization, piety, neglect and abject poverty]. However, you will agree with me that some strides have been made to mitigate some of the negative impacts affecting persons with disabilities in terms of developing certain policies, protocols, legislations and treaties by countries, regional bodies and the United Nations. In spite of this little has been done on the implementation of these sound documents and instruments geared towards improving the lives and livelihoods of persons with disabilities around the world, especially in Africa
The government of the Gambia committed itself and developed an Integrated National Disability Policy, National Plan of Action on the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities and Persons with Disability Bill (which are all in the draft stage). Notwithstanding, some implementation has taken place, some activities are ongoing and others are in the planning process that are all in line with the convention on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities which the Gambia is a signatory to.
The Disability Act 2021
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare has tabled the Persons with Disability Bill 2021 before the National Assembly for enactment. This Bill was passed by the National Assembly on the 6th of July 2021 and assented to by the president on the 25th of July 2021 to become an ACT to give effect to the Government’s commitment to protect the rights of Persons with Disabilities as outlined in section 31 of the Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia 1997 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for which The Gambia is a signatory.
As a follow-up to the Act, a Disability Advisory Council was established in December 2022, with the nomination of 17 members from relevant institutions and the appointment of a chairman by His Excellency The President.
The Persons with Disabilities Policy, 2022-2031 and Strategic Work Plan, 2022-2026 were validated in November 2022, and approved by the cabinet in September 2023. The strategic work plan was developed to support the implementation of the Policy and the Disability Act.
This was followed by the implementation of various activities such as:
Sensitization of OPDs on the CEDAW guidelines in December 2022 for Participants to have a brief understanding of Gender-Based Violence & Disability and also to have an overview of the legal frameworks of the CRPD & CEDAW.
Induction training of the National Advisory Council in December 2022 to build the capacity of participants to enhance policy and legal analysis to promote the implementation and the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities in line with CRPD, including women and children with disabilities.
National Advisory Council Paid a courtesy call on H.E. on Mach 8 2023 to discuss issues relating to persons with disabilities.
Induction training of the regional steering committees was conducted on the 3rd of May 2023 where discussions were centred on an overview of the UN partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), the legal framework and the roles and responsibilities of the Regional committees.
Several community engagements were conducted for the popularization of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2021 in 2023 in all the regions. The aim of these exercises is to raise the awareness of the general public of the existence of this act and to call on every citizen to cooperate in the implementation of the act.
With the establishment of a national advisory council for disabilities, there is a need to establish a secretariat. UNDP has purchased some items for furnishing the secretariat: Desks, Chairs and Laptops. The Ministry has identified an office space which can be used as a secretariat.
The Ministry has written to the Ministry of Finance to create a budget line for the Disability Fund to address issues of persons with disabilities and their operations.
The Ministry has provided the much-needed state-of-the-art specialized equipment and materials to sustain the production of prostheses and other services for the benefit of persons with disabilities. International training was organized to train staff on new technologies in the production of prostheses. (LEGS4AFRICA and SwissAbility).
Rehabilitation services such as the provision of orthopaedic appliances, mobility aids, gait training, mechanical repairs on reusable Assistive Devices and psychosocial counselling to Persons with Disabilities to enhance their coping mechanisms and their participation in socio-economic activities.
Distinguished partners, let me hasten to also mention that much needs to be done on disability to facilitate the prevention and rehabilitation of disability in the Gambia. The Directorate of Social Welfare under the Ministry responsible for disability affairs is under-resourced to continue providing annual financial grants to organizations of persons with disabilities including its federation, and the provision of both human and material resources to deliver the much-needed services and assistive devices.
In conclusion, please kindly allow me to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation on behalf of my Ministry and the esteemed persons with disabilities. I look forward to a successful endeavour.