The Ministry of Social Welfare, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), last Thursday held one day national validation workshop on the revised Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) Act 2011.
The workshop took place at Family Kingdom, Aberdeen in Freetown and was attended by various disability groups across the country.
Minister of Social Welfare, Baindu Dassama-Kamara, said the voice of the disability must be heard and that the document they were about to validate would protect every persons living with disabilities across the country, because the ministry has given them the opportunity to strengthen their legal framework.
She said the ministry would continue to supporting PWDs and promised them that after the validation, the ministry would take the final draft bill to the legal people for an advise, after which they would take the bill to parliament for it to be enacted.
"The Ministry of Social Welfare wants to put an end to street begging through the support of UNDP," she said.
Dassama-Kamara said there were many things PWDs needed to change in the 2011 Act, and encouraged them to think about things that are good for them as disables, and what would help them access facilities that would help them develop.
"After the bill has gone through parliament, we are going to raise funds to make sure we implement the laws because it has been embedded in the revised act. They talk about having access to free medical, free education and others which is affecting them, but we will try to make sure they have access to what they need. They should be ready to comply with the ministry when it comes to enactment," she said.
UNDP Representative, Tanzila Watta Sankoh, applauded the government for their efforts in trying to address issues of exclusion and marginalization and their attendant impact on persons with disabilities in the country.
She further thanked the ministry for organising the workshop to validate the draft bill.
"I firmly believe that all of us are quite familiar with the fact that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015 sets specific targets to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Key aspects of disability inclusion are embedded in all 17 SDGs," she said.
She said in 2018 the United Nations Secretary General launched United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS), which provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all aspects of the work of the United Nations.
"The 2030 Agenda decisively intends to leave no one behind. This year, we are supporting the ministry with funding to provide entrepreneurship skills training and livelihoods start-up kits that target PWDs, to commemorate the International Day of People with Disabilities, validate and popularize the reviewed PWDs Act 2011," she said.
She said they would continue to support policy and programming aiming to ensure that PWDs in Sierra Leone are informed, engaged, and empowered to be resilient in their communities and contribute to sustainable human development.
Hon Rose Mary Bangura, Chairperson, Social Welfare Committee in Parliament, said persons with disabilities have gone through a lot, that why they engaged the ministry to see how they can validate the PWDs Act 2011.
She said they were hoping to working with everyone in making sure that they live no one behind
Programme Officer for Albinism Foundation, Mohamed Kalfala Sesay, said there were many challenges persons living with disabilities face in the old Act, but thanked the ministry and partners for seeking the consent of different disable groups in trying to review the Act.
He said one major thing they are missing in the 2011 Act is the area of punishment for violators, even though there were a number of laws that have to do with discrimination, especially for them living with albinism, but that there was no punishment in the Act like if someone calls them a derogatory name.