"One of the main priorities of Government is to work towards an equitable society that promotes the inclusion, among others, of people with disabilities, who must be given due attention and respect so that they participate in the development of our society".
The Prime Minister, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, made this statement, today, during an official ceremony at Sir Harilal Vaghjee Memorial Hall in Port Louis, to mark the celebrations of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021. The United Nations (UN) theme chosen for this year is Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.
The Minister of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity, Mrs Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo; the Minister of Industrial Development, SMEs and Cooperatives and Acting Minister of Housing and Land Use Planning, Mr Soomilduth Bholah; the UN Resident Coordinator, Mrs Christine Umutoni; and other personalities were present at the ceremony.
In his address, the Prime Minister highlighted that, in order to achieve the objective of an inclusive society, the collaboration of every stakeholder, be it Government, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, and the civil society in general, was required. He pointed out that persons with disabilities had the same rights as any citizen and as such, much effort had to be made so as to create a better place for them in society. 'One of the means to achieve this goal', he indicated, 'is to educate each member of the population on the proper way to treat persons with disabilities.'
The Prime Minister underscored that persons with disabilities accounted for some 15% of the world population, and faced difficulties in their daily lives. 'This', he emphasised, 'is the reason for which the UN came forward with an Agenda 2030 where special consideration is given to persons with disabilities, and to which Mauritius will adhere to.' He also remarked that Mauritius was a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which aimed at protecting the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
The Head of Government commended persons with disabilities who excelled in one way or another, and who inspired others with their courage, efforts and talent which they were able to develop in a favourable environment. He cited the examples of Ms Jane Constance, who won The Voice Kids in France back in 2015 and was designated UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2017; Ms Noemi Alphonse, who put in a great performance at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games; and Mr Reynolds Permal, who is yet another source of inspiration for all people with disabilities to strive for excellence.
In addition, Prime Minister Jugnauth dwelt on several initiatives which had been or were being implemented by Government to enhance the quality of life of persons with disabilities. Some of these endeavours are better access to education through new teaching techniques, and the construction of ramps in existing public buildings to ease access for disabled persons.
Prime Minister Jugnauth also reiterated his appeal to every citizen to be inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccines, and urged those who had already received the two doses to be vaccinated with a booster shot with a view to strengthening their immune system. He further stressed that Government had put in place several measures so that those disabled persons who could not go to vaccination centres received the vaccine at home.
As for Minister Jeewa-Daureeawoo, she underlined the importance of leaving no one behind in a bid to achieve an inclusive society. She detailed a series of actions already undertaken by Government to support persons with disabilities. They comprise, among others, a cash grant for wheelchairs and hearing aid devices; an increase of the disability pension; and the abolition of the age criteria for a disabled person to receive medical visits at home.
Moreover, she observed that Government was currently working on the Disability Bill, aiming to protect the rights of persons with disabilities as well as eliminating discrimination against them, and that it would be introduced in the National Assembly in the coming months.
For her part, Mrs Umutoni commended Government for its commitment to continuously progress towards an inclusive society where the rights of persons with disabilities were respected and protected. She also expressed appreciation that Government had taken a series of undertakings to apply the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with 27 out of the 44 recommendations already implemented.