By Awa B. Bah

Stakeholders and Legislators on Thursday 19th October 2017, opened a forum on the draft disability bill.

The forum was held at a local hotel in Senegambia. The forum under the theme “Building a road map for the passing of the bill,” was meant for stakeholders to brainstorm on the Draft Disability Bill 2017, for further consideration at the National Assembly.  The forum was organized by the GFD with support from UNDP, IRI and Efanet.

Dr. Ismaila Ceesay said in the Gambia, people living with disabilities are not adequately catered for; that they are left without basic services and equipment and they need to fulfill their potentials and live better lives. He said that it is against this background that persons with disability bill is timely and important so as to consider justice and a fair society where their potentials can be realized.

Isatou Sanyang, Chairperson at the Gambia Federation of the Disabled in her address said, the Gambia is part of the African continent that signed and ratified the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. She noted that it is five years since the draft disability bill was moved; that this forum will serve as another land mark event in the history of persons with disability in the Gambia. She said for many years, they are working towards domesticating the laws on persons with disabilities in the country. In 2009, she said the Gambia Federation for the Disabled and the Department of Social Welfare with the support of other partners, worked on the draft disability policy which according to her, is still at one of the Ministry’s office. This forum she said will encourage them to reflect on how persons with disability challenges in our communities live on daily basis. She called on the ministries, departments and organizations to consider and make a real difference on the lives of persons with disabilities in the Gambia.

In her overview, Fatou Sulay Pen at the Ministry of Justice, said the draft bill was forwarded to the ministry of justice by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for the final drafting of the bill. She said there is need for the bill to be discussed so that when it is passed, it will make a provision for social support accessibility, education, communication, vocational training, employment, work protection and promotion of basic rights of persons with disabilities in the Gambia. She said that this is the first time that such a bill that addresses the rights of persons with disabilities, is to be tabled before the National Assembly for consideration. She therefore noted that a Law that will protect and promote the lives and welfare of disabled persons in the Gambia is needed and welcome.

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