Involve challenged persons in decision-making — UNICEF (SPREAD)

THE  United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has asked the government and civil society organisations to involve children and adolescents with disabilities when making decisions that affect them. 

It said children and adolescents with disabilities should not just be seen as beneficiaries of programmes but as agents of change.

The call is part of the nine key recommendations contained in this year’s State of the World’s Children Report launched in Accra by the UNICEF Country office.

The 154-page report, which focused on children, observed that they and adults with disabilities often faced a wide range of physical, social and environmental barriers to full participation in society.
It underlined that the barriers included reduced access to healthcare, education and other support services.
“They are also thought to be at significantly greater risk of violence than their peers without disabilities.
“Understanding the extent of violence against children with disabilities is an essential first step in developing effective programmes to prevent them from becoming victims of violence and improve their health and quality of life,” the report stated.

In Ghana, just like other parts of the developing world, children with disabilities, including visual and hearing impairment, albinism, physically and mentally challenged, autism, cerebral palsy, are often victims of neglect and sometimes hidden by family members for fear of mockery.

The report, among other recommendations, therefore, called for the dismantling of barriers to inclusion so that all children’s environments, including schools, health facilities and public transport, became accessible to children with disabilities alongside their peers.

Dr Seidu Danaa, the Minister of Chieftaincy and Culture and Ghana’s first visually impaired minister, who joined other stakeholders to launch the report, said his ministry was working with the Ministry of Children, Gender and Social Protection to ensure that cultural practices that inhibited the growth of disabled people were removed.

“We have a duty to work hard so that in the future our children don’t suffer the same fate as some of us today,” he said.

The UNICEF Country Representative, Ms Susan Namondo Ngongi, said children with disabilities should not be seen as fundamentally different from other children but rather as children with ability to become valuable contributors to society.

Figures from the Ghana 2010 National Population Census indicated that children with disabilities are about 80,000, representing 20 per cent of the total population of persons with disabilities.

But these children, according to UNICEF, compared to their counterparts without disability, constituted the largest number of children who did not attend school.

Ms Ngongi said getting more children with special needs into school was critical if Ghana was to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary education by 2015.

The country’s net  enrolment ratio at the primary school level between 2008 and 2011 is 84 per cent male and 85 female.

To ensure that all children, irrespective of their situation, have equal access to education, UNICEF has partnered the government to improve on inclusive education in some parts of the country. Currently, 12 districts are implementing the policy.

A photo exhibition of 23 children with different forms of disabilities was mounted as part of the launch of the report.


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