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New hope for children and disabled

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Freetown, 20 June (SLENA): In a bid to address the welfare of children and disability issues, government through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs is to set up two commissions in due course.

According to the Vice President, Alhaji Sam Sumana, the National Commission for Children and that of the Commission for Persons with Disability will be set up and when fully established and becomes operational they will derive their powers from the 2007 Child Rights Act and the 2010 International Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability.

The Commission, the Vice President further revealed, will undertake advocacy, resource mobilization and translate policy into concrete actions for participation and development of children and disabled person.

Making the disclosure in a keynote address at the Miatta Conference Hall while deputizing President Koroma at this year’s celebration marking the Day of the African Child, the Vice President said the day was initiated by the then OAU now AU for global observance to mark the horrendous attack on peaceful school pupils demonstrating against the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.

He noted that the importance of such a day and especially its solemnity cannot be underplayed as it makes the present generation of children know the sacrifices made by the children in Soweto in demand for their rights to be accepted by society that resulted into hundreds killed and many injured and maimed.

Dilating on this year’s global theme of the celebration, “The Rights of Children with Disability”, the Vice President opined it was in conformity with the national strategy to increase public awareness on the rights of children with disability.

According to him, it was now time for the government and all stakeholders to demonstrate their commitment to the welfare of the physically challenged and obligations centred on physically and mentally challenged children to remove all socio-cultural barriers affecting their lives.

“Disability should not exclude them from their rights to quality education, health care and voice to be heard, voted for and participation in representative governance,” he stressed.

The Vice President noted with concern that most high public buildings and other infrastructures have no remedial facilities for use by disabled persons and therefore appealed to all architects to make comfortable provisions for the disabled in such directions.

The Deputy Representative, UNICEF, Gopal Sharma, said the event reminds all that children with disabilities have equal rights as others to access service. “They need to grow up healthy and live up to their potential without having to face discrimination, violence and neglect, the UNICEF rep reiterated.

Dilating on the improvement of the lives of children with disabilities, the deputy Health Minister I, Tamba Borbor Sawyer said their inclusion is a matter of social justice and an effectual investment in the future of society not based on goodwill but as integral element of expression and realization of universal human right.

Social Welfare Minister, Stephen Gaujia said this year’s celebration from the 13 to 16 June included a national conference that attracted children from all over the country focusing on the child’s welfare.

A blind student, who spoke on behalf of the children, reiterated that disability is not inability and called for empowerment to improve on their lives and be included to feel as partners in development.

The chairperson of the occasion Mrs. Emma Parker, an old student of the Milton Margai School for the Blind, appealed for provisions to be made in the areas of health, education and employment for persons with disability.


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