Liberia: Italian NGO, AIFO', Enters Liberian Disabled People's 'Work Issues'

Monrovia — In 1997, a non-governmental Human Rights-advocacy and capacity-building organization, named Association Friends of Raoul Follereau (AIFO), founded by a French Journalist in 1961, opened Office in Liberia. The Organization's Liberia debut was through a community-based rehabilitation approach on leprosy, and later established a business setup program being run disabled people into oil palm and rice production in Montserrado, Bong, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh Counties.

"In Liberia, AIFO started with Liberians with leprosy," declared Rebecca Stubberfield, Project Manager of Coordinated Action on Disability in Liberia (CAD-L), a Project funded by the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia, at a two-day Workshop (16-17 February, 2021) on 'decent work environment' for Persons with Disabilities, held at the Liberia Chamber of Commerce in Monrovia. Similar Workshops had been held in Bong County and Nimba Counties.

Partners to the CAD-L projects are Liberia Labour Congress, Alliance on Disability, Liberia Chamber of Commerce, and the National Union of Organization the Disabled (NUOD)

AIFO's Partners on the Workshop were the Liberia Labour Congress, Liberia Chamber of Commerce, and Swedish Embassy-supported CAD-L.

From leprosy-related issue, AIFO has expanded its human rights-protection umbrella to disabled Liberians. Two of its many engagements are offer of an office space to the Nation Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD), a private umbrella body of Liberian disabled groups at AIFO's Country Office on 19th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia; and sponsorship of a radio program for PWDs to interact with the wider public on problems affecting the disability community. The PWD issues are being aired on ECOWAS Radio (91.5)

In recent times, AIFO has joined the Liberia Labour Congress on a brainstorming session about employment/work-related issues facing Liberians living with disabilities. During the session a 46-page illustrations-decorated book, entitled "Sensitization Manual: Decent Work, Inclusion and Accessibility. Where Is Your Attitude?" was launched. The Liberia Labour Congress produced the Manual, with financial support from the International Labour Organization (ILO) of the United Nations.

"AIFO plans its activities, in line with the decent work environment project, in January, 2020, but the Coronavirus pandemic caused our shifting it to the following year," AIFO's representative, Madam Rebecca Stubberfield, said at the two-day Workshop mentioned earlier.

Other partners on the project made remarks at the two-day Workshop, which preceded the presentations segment.

Representing the Liberia Labour Congress, Madam Stephanine S. Duncan said the Tripartite Committee, of which the LCC is a part, is information-constraint due to insufficient information on PWDs from some members of the Committee.

The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), represented by Mr. Adama Dempster, said non-disabled people's "feelings for persons with disabilities are seen in their actions toward or for them."

"We are here to hear how the decent work environment can be safe for persons with disabilities, according to the various presentations to be given here," said Naomi B. Harris, president of the National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD)

The National Commission on Disabilities (NCD), represented by its Executive Director, Mrs. Ricardia Dennis, said much talking by national government has been done on the rights of PWDs, but no much actions. "People respect policy makers and advocates more by our actions, not by our words," she added.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) reaffirmed its commitment to Liberia's disabled people's community on decent work environment, said Mr. Salif A. Massalay, ILO's Country Coordinator for Liberia, representing his Institution. "The ILO's support to the production of the Decent Work Manual presented at this Workshop shows its commitment to a decent work for disabled persons, as well as workers with no disability," he added.

The Ministry of Labour has little information on Liberia's PWDs because PWD organizations had not provided more information about their memberships and activities, declared Attorney Welma B. Sampson, representing the Ministry.

There was no representative from invited Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP) throughout the two-day Workshop. The "Social Protection" section the Ministry covers "disabilities".

On the "Expectations" segment of the Workshop, majority of the participants recommended Ram (leveled pathway) in all public buildings for painless access or mobility of PWDs into them.

There were five presentations covering the two-day Workshop.

The first presentation--"Myths, Truths, and Realities"--was done by Madam Mongana May-Cole, Disable Desk Officer, Liberia Labour Congress.

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