23 January 2013

Gambia: The Situation of the Disabled

A 54 year old physically disabled woman called Aminata Joof from Ebo Town, in an interview with the Disability Column, said she was born as an able bodied person but acquired the physical disability as a result of a wrongly administered injection when she went to the hospital for treatment after an illness.

According to Aminata, everything was going quite well for her until after the demise of her father who was really supportive to her. "The death of my father had turned a new and difficult page in my life. It was after he died and leaving me with my poor mum that real hardship descended on us which turned me into a beggar on the streets," she said.

As a mother of four children and the sole bread winner of her young family, Aminata said she has no other option than to beg in the streets to be able to feed, clothe and house her children and to pay for their school fees and other needs. "I am also assuming the role of a father in certain instances because my husband is visually impaired (blind) and cannot do certain things," she added.

Aminata concluded by appealing for support from the government and other concerned organisations in the form of training to enable them acquire skills and to start income generating ventures or businesses of their own such as sewing/tailoring, operating grocery shops etc. She also called on the members of the public to be considerate and caring to people with disabilities.

Another physically challenged woman called Mariama Touray, who is a resident of Churchill Town, said she has completed her education at Nusrat Senior Secondary School with good grades. She too said that she was not born with the condition but acquired it in her childhood after a wrongful administering of an injection at the hospital. She explained that her mum only came to discover that she could not walk after they arrived home from the hospital. She said her mum took her to many places but she could not be cured to start walking again and was eventually confined to a wheelchair.

According to Mariama, she has gone to many places looking for a job but without success. She said it was through a friend of hers who had helped her to secure the work of an agent selling "Nopal" transfer to mobile phone customers.

"I am doing this in order to be able to support myself and my poor mum. Although the income I earn from these sales is not much, I can however take care of some of my needs," she said.

Mariama said her ambition for the future is not to remain as a vendor of "Nopal" transfer but to become a fully trained professional like others who have completed their education at the tertiary level.

She called on the government to consider the situation of the people like her and to provide them with the opportunities to develop their latent talents and become very productive members of society.

Awa Kujabi is a visually impaired woman in her mid fifties who has been begging all her life. She said she has three children and one of whom is going to Bakoteh Lower Basic School, adding that the other two, a girl and a boy, are at home and are the ones who accompany her when she moves around begging. She said the kids should have been in school but that they are at home because of the lack of money.

"I use the little money I get from begging to feed my children and also pay for the school fees of the eldest child," said Awa.

She appeals to the public to understand that they are begging because they do not have jobs to do earn an income for the livelihood of their families. "If jobs are even scarce for the students who have graduated from school to be able to earn and support their parents, how do expect people like us who have no skills get jobs?" she asked.

Awa said both her and husband, who is also visually impaired, depend entirely on daily begging in the streets of Serekunda to be able to pay for their house rent, school fees, provide fish money, and attend to other basic and essential needs in the household.

She concluded that they really need support from everybody including the government.

Bubacarr Badjie, a disabled person residing in Wellingara in the Kombo North District of Western Region, said he is begging because he has no work to support himself and his family. He said begging is not his wish but that he has no other alternative as he has to take care of his six children and five whom are going to school. He said it is the money he gets from begging that pays his children's school fees and their daily survival needs.

He said other than God their no one who gives him support and that life is very hard and painful for him. "If I don't beg people in the streets my family will not eat," he lamented.

He said for him life has always been difficult because both his father and mother died when he was very young and that since then until today as a family he has been depending on alms for his livelihood and that of his children.

He said he is calling on the government to provide them with something that they can do to provide for themselves in the form of meaningful and dignified engagement rather begging. He also appeals to other philanthropic organisations to undertake programmes that support the disabled to become economically active and productive. He lamented that the only welfare support that some of them benefit from comes from individuals and organizations that are from abroad. He said children of the disabled do get scholarships from European individuals or families who were here before on holidays.

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