interviewBy Yaya Bajo
SOROPTMIST International of Banjul on Tuesday 29TH January walked into the office of GFD with some crutches and wheelchairs as their contribution to promoting the welfare of persons with disabilities in the Gambia and after the donation the advocacy volunteer of GFD Mr. Musa Jobateh decided to conduct some interviews with the President of SOROPTMIST and Mrs. Ndella Faye Colley and her companions
Musa: Good afternoon Madam. My name is Musa Jobateh, GFD Advocacy and Awareness Volunteer. May you kindly introduce yourself?
Ndella: Yes, good afternoon Musa. My name is Ndella Faye Colley and I am the president of SOROPTMIST International, Banjul.
Musa: Can you go further to highlight the objectives of SOROPTMIST International?
Ndella: SOROPTMIST as you and others may know is a women's organisation whose objective and vision is to empower and create opportunities for women and girls all over the world. It is an international organisation and the Gambia has a local chapter which we belong to. Our objective is really to improve the lives of women and looking at the issues that affect them in the areas of education, health, and agriculture and income livelihood. We work with women in communities to support them in their livelihood. We also have girls that we support in schools, and we also work with some health facilities to improve the qualities of services provided by those institutions.
Musa: I just saw you walked into GFD with some materials for disability support and I know GFD must have been identified earlier. What are the criteria that you look at which led you to identify GFD among the lot of other organisations?
Ndella: Like I have said earlier, our objective is to support and improve the lives of women and girls, but women are also in the disability community. Globally we have activities that we organize. We get them involved and we also have a relationship with our sister SOROPTMIST that come from other countries. For example, we have a sister from the UK, who has come to the Gambia with some items and we work together to make sure that the items reach the right people. The disability community is one of the targets because they are also one of the most of the disadvantaged in the community. Amongst this donation we have crutches and some of the walking sticks that we are giving, could have gone to many places but we feel that GFD, which is the federation of the disabled, is the right place to come, so that they can give it the right people who are members of their organisations, be it from the head office or sister members of Disabled People's Organisations that belong to GFD. So these are some of the reasons why we choose GFD and we are very sure that people in the community who need these items should be able to access them, because they are situated in parts of the country where we may not be able to reach, so working with GFD will really add value to make sure that these items are able to reach the right people in the community.
Musa: This is just the beginning. How far do you intend to go with GFD with this partnership and how would you rate these donations to the daily lives of people in the disability community?
Ndella: This is not the first time that we have worked with Persons with Disabilities. We had some sensitization activities in the past, where we invited People with Disabilities to participate. This time, we are bringing items to them and these technical aids are usually needed by people with physical disabilities. We know that they would able to use these aids to facilitate their mobility because from experience with working with persons with disabilities when I was working with VSO, technical aid for mobility was one of the main challenges faced by persons with disability in the Gambia. Some of these people are very far from where the technical aids are available, but even those facilities who have them, they are not always in abundance for people to use them, so giving them to GFD will be able to help bridge accessibility barriers. GFD is a membership organisation with Disabled People Organisations as their members, so you don't need to go and scout for people who need these aids as I am sure you have the demand from People with Disabilities, both here and upcountry. We had the feeling that if we brought them here, they will reach the target, which will be able to use them and facilitate their movement from their households to the communities so they will be able to participate and do things for themselves and their communities and not be confined to their houses. If you are a person with a physical disability and you don't have a mobility aid, it affects your movements and you can hardly do anything for yourself or for the community. These people have talents and skills to be productive citizens, but if there is a mobility barrier, then they are confined and lose gain from those hidden talents. I think these aids will really help to improve mobility and enable the participation of People with Disabilities in the community and to the development of the community.
Musa: At a personal level, you were working with GFD since your time at VSO and now you are no more with VSO but still continue to work with GFD. May I just ask if you have any enjoyment in working with GFD and what benefit do you derive from working with Persons with Disabilities?
Ndella: It is not easy to say who you are, but those who are close to me know that I am someone who believes in equal rights for everybody, and my experiences in life have really shown that I was given my rights by the support of other people, because if you have a humble background, unless people who respect the values of individuals support you, you can hard realize your potentials. I was given support by other individuals who did not care where I was coming from, but they saw that I was a girl with high potential, so they supported me to reach where I am today, with SOROPTMIST, with other people that I have met along the way, arriving in the position where I am in a position to help others. I derive pleasure in helping others and interestingly, before I joined VSO, the disability community were people that I did not really think about, so I thank God that, through VSO, I had the opportunity to understand that there is a social group who are equal with other people but are often forgotten by virtue of what people perceive them to be. Sometimes it is not that we think Persons with Disabilities are wicked, but we think that we need to have them in the house and care for them, but we need to go beyond that. Persons with Disabilities are equally human beings; they have potentials that some of us don't have. It all boils back to the opportunities they have to explore that potential and if Gambians don't reap that potential we are always going lose out because People with Disabilities are doing a lot of development in other parts of the world.
Musa: You think differently from the majority of Gambians regards the way they treat Persons with Disabilities. What would be your advice to those who treat Persons with Disabilities negatively?
Ndella: I admit that many times, Persons with Disabilities are victims of mistreatment, because people do not know to treat them. So let's continue with our sensitization works so that we enlighten the general public about how deal with People with Disabilities, because if you don't know how to deal with them, even with the spirit of doing good for them, you may end up harming them, so that's one area that we need to be aware of. Furthermore, we want people to change perception and like I've said, I don't look at the physical appearance of the person. I look beyond that because people are beyond how they look physically. Let's appreciate or have a different mind about them, as there are a lot of things behind them and persons with disabilities are some the people I've seen that are that way. So sitting on a wheelchair doesn't mean that the wheelchair defines them or that is how the person is throughout his life. The person is beyond being on a wheelchair so we have to open up our minds and give them the opportunities from outside the households, because sometimes that's where the problem starts. If your parents keep you in the house rather than taking you to school, then you miss out from the opportunity of being prepared for life, and that affects you later because the way development is going, those who are educated have higher chances of being employed. So let's give all the people in the houses the opportunity including the PWDs and as we move on, we open up doors for them in the institutions, higher training institutions, and also in the job market, so that we get the best out of them and forget about looking at only the physical aspects that demonstrates disability in them. I think they are people who have many more things in them beyond how they look. That is my piece of advice for everybody.
Musa: It is a pleasure having you. Thank you very much.
Ndella: Thank you very much.
Musa: Madam, can you kindly introduce you self?
Pauline: I am Pauline from England and I am very privileged to be able to work alongside Madam President of the SOROPTMIST in the Gambia and my fellow sisters. I just want to say thank you for allowing me, through the SOROPTMIST, to bring some technical aids that will enable the Person's with Disabilities to fulfill a very meaningful life and for them to benefit from using the aids and to enable them to integrate into the community.
Musa: How would you rate the situation of persons with disability in The Gambia to the situation of persons with disabilities in the UK?
Pauline: I feel that the Persons with Disabilities in the UK have support and I think perhaps PWD in the Gambia need that accessibility and if I can help with that, I will.
Musa: Yes madam?
Patience Sonko Godwin: I'm Mrs. Patience Sonko Godwin, a member of SOROPTMIST international of Banjul
Musa: Do you have anything to add to what your colleagues have said?
Patience Sonko Godwin: I have been impressed by Persons with Disabilities and what they can do. I have a few friends with disabilities that I have supported in the past. I was very happy to see that Ndella was thinking about this association and we hope that you people will help others and ensure that they get access to these working aids.
Musa: Thank you very much. It is a pleasure having you people here. Now I just want to turn to our Director to give a vote of thanks and say how he feels about these donations.
Musa: Can you say anything and how do you feel about the donations that SOROPTMIST have just brought for GFD?
Anton: Persons with disabilities in the Gambia suffer many difficulties because of a lack of access to support aids. These donations will be very helpful; it will enable persons with disabilities to go to school, access training, to go to work and to integrate in their social life. Thank you very much.