Hello everyone. I’m Luke and here to raise awareness about the important work I have recently completed with ICS. The International Citizen Service is a charity organisation which works to promote development in other countries. For example by promoting the rights of women, children and people with disabilities. On my experience of which I will be talking about, I was sent to the Upper East Region of Ghana to work it the community of Sandema for 3 months. There me and my team, the LIFE project worked to integrate people living with disabilities into their local communities.
Why is this a problem?
-There are over 5 million people in Ghana with disabilities (about a fifth of the population).
-A seventh of people globally live with a disability, 80% of which are in developing countries like Ghana.
-The disability act introduced in Ghana in 2006 is designed to protect and safeguard their rights but it is poorly implemented. This includes equal opportunities, equal treatment and wheelchair access to buildings.
A lot of the problem comes down to people’s attitudes. In spite of the laws many people still regard people living with disability as incompetent and cursed. So a great number of people are still left isolated and mistreated by their communities.
The main reason why they get treated this way is owing to local superstitions. Many people believe that disability is a punishment sent from god. For example the practice of dealing with a “spirit baby” is outlawed but unfortunately still practiced. When a child is born with a physical disability, they are referred to as a spirit baby and considered evil and killed.
What we do?
In order to make our work sustainable it is important that for example if we set up groups we don’t start just running things ourselves as anything we build which is dependent on us is unsustainable. It is better to set things up which are run by local people. Through our various activities involving education and empowerment among other things, we aim to get people to take action for themselves.
Through the events we did like community, school and radio sensitisations, we educated the public on:
1. The causes and types of disability which had to be simplified as many aren’t educated or familiar with mental health and learning difficulties
2. The challenges facing people with disabilities. For example wheelchair access.
3. Some of the superstitions. For example I found a specific bible quote in which Jesus himself said that disability is not a punishment from god.
4. The importance of integrating people with disabilities into the community and that they can be accomplished and capable with the right opportunities.
5. The law and rights of people with disabilities
We also bring members from the disabled people’s organisation (DPO) to speak about their experiences like Mr Gilbert who is head of the DPO, a teacher and translator.
Through these methods we hope to empower people with disabilities and change people’s attitudes to create a more integrated community.