Strengthening the Disability Inclusion Agenda in Cameroon, Nigeria and Sierra Leone
A knowledge exchange and peer learning program were carried out virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions through a series of webinars, bringing together practitioners and representatives of key ministries and public agencies, as well as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and Organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) from Cameroun, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
The objectives of the virtual exchanges were to promote the disability inclusion agenda in the three participating countries and allow participants to identify best practices and share experiences in policy formulation and implementation in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone.
Cameroon, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are all committed to moving forward with the disability inclusion agenda, but each country at its own pace. They all face similar challenges in advancing the disability agenda, despite having ratified the United Nations Conventions of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and developed legislative and policy frameworks to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities. However, most of these legislations are not implemented and persons with disabilities still experience different forms of discrimination and socio-economic exclusion. Another challenge is the lack of coordination and the difficulty in creating synergies between the different stakeholders, particularly between governmental agencies, Organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) and CSOs. These challenges have been exacerbated by limited knowledge dissemination. Accordingly, this knowledge exchange aimed to bring together practitioners and representatives of key ministries and CSOs to share their expertise and exchange the “know- how” in order to move forward with the disability inclusion agenda in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
A background desk review was carried out to key into the webinar themes, in order to ensure that the contents of the presentations from the various countries align with the goals of the knowledge exchange. The desk review was then followed by a scoping work conducted in coordination with Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) to ascertain the various projects carried out by the governments, Civil Society Organizations, and OPDs in the participating countries.
Furthermore, key informant interviews were also conducted with key partners to ascertain the authenticity of the impactful projects which were presented during the webinars. This led to design the webinars which allowed the participants from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Cameroun to share their expertise and experiences and learn about the progress achieved in each country, identify the bottlenecks in advancing the disability inclusion agenda, and share innovations made towards promoting disability inclusion in their countries.
Emerging thematic areas and solutions led to the following propositions among stakeholders:
- Advancing synergy and partnership among stakeholders’ working within the disability inclusion ecosystem.
- Improving the implementation of existing legislative and policy frameworks
- Advocating for effective coordination among CSOs, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) and OPDs both within and across the region remains a veritable approach towards advancing knowledge on inclusion
- Strengthening the capacity of OPDs across structures and their institutions using a demand-driven human rights-based approach
- Investing in the educational development of persons with disabilities through their educational advancement.
- Investing more in disability disaggregated data as a way of tracking and monitoring progress on inclusion.
Overview of webinar series as presented
Webinar 1: Current issues and challenges across legislations and policies
The webinar took a critical look at the various legislative and policy frameworks that promotes the inclusion of persons with disabilities across governance, education, health, employment, etc. Participants acknowledged that legislative and policy frameworks exist through the activities of their respective governments. However, the implementation of these policies and frameworks remains a challenge. Also, the issues of poverty, inaccessible infrastructure, stigma, discrimination, and prejudice against persons with disabilities remain the dominant challenges across the participating countries.
Webinar 2: Example of good practices
Some examples of good practices across humanitarian and development sectors were shared from the three countries that further gave credence to the level of ongoing disability inclusion strategy. These ranges from interventions that promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities within the humanitarian space targeting UN agencies MDAs, NGOs, and the general populace in Cameroun and Nigeria. These were shared by Christian Blind Mission (CBM) (Cameroun and Nigeria), and include the BMZ projects and the DFID (now FCDO) North-East Nigeria Transition to Development program (NENTAD) in the Northeast Region of Nigeria.
Also, the strategic advocacy with MDAs, CSOs, and other stakeholders that led to the passage and signing of the Disability Act in Nigeria was shared by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). Furthermore, a novel approach that brings together CSOs, government MDAs and OPDs at a one- stop point towards for promoting disability inclusion in Sierra Leone led to the formation of the National Disability Consortium in Sierra Leone. Additionally, Sightsavers and the British Council under the Inclusion Works and the Rule of LAW and Anticorruption (ROLAC) projects, presented some of their innovative programs on the employment of persons of disabilities through building partnerships between the private sector and government agencies. Some of these innovations include the mentorship of human resources managers and persons with disabilities through the Chartered Institute of Management on the employment of persons with disabilities.
Webinar 3: Innovation in the programming of disability inclusion
Some amazingly innovative approaches across civic engagement, education, academic research, governance, data collection, and children with disabilities in humanitarian space were shared by participants at the webinar.
- ActionAid Nigeria: disability inclusion through capacity building and promoting strategic partnerships and collaborations using talent traction and projection of OPDs.
- Sierra Leone Association of Persons with Albinism: the use of social, print, and conventional media platforms towards raising awareness and organizing sensitization campaigns on the issues responsible for myths and superstition causing persecution and killings of people with albinism in the region.
- African Polling Institute (API): Engagement of scholars in universities to conduct research on disability across the six geopolitical regions and the development of accessibility tool.
Webinar 4: Way forward - Promoting accessible and inclusive environments
The fourth webinar sessions focused on accessible and inclusive environments. However, the opportunity to share the interventions carried out by the World Bank with the governments of Sierra Leone and Nigeria came to the forefront.
The Global Team shared the areas where the World Bank has been promoting disability inclusion. Additionally, the team shared with participants some online knowledge resources. These include:
- The World Bank Group Commitments on Disability-Inclusive Development
- Environmental and Social Framework
- Information on the International Development Association (IDA)19 and IDA20 commitment to Disability
From the participant feedback and discussions from the webinars, the following key lessons emerged:
- The importance of intersectoral coordination and collaboration: participants emphasized the need for synergy between MDAs, CSOs, and OPDs working on disability inclusion. The Government of Sierra Leone, OPDs and CSOs have taken the lead in this area by establishing the National Disability Consortium that has membership spread across MDAs, CSOs, and OPDs working on disability inclusion. Although, such initiative existed in Nigeria among INGOs alone but it has not been effective. A major gain from Nigeria was the engagement of the private sector in promoting the employment of persons with disabilities. Through this engagement, human resource managers in the private sector have been trained on inclusion, and the Nigerian Disability Business Network Forum was established.
- The importance of partnering with the private sector to promote employment opportunities for persons with disabilities was highlighted throughout the webinars.
- A right-based approach can be achieved if based on demand-driven capacity building programs are delivered to PWDs. More often than not, interventions of capacity building are supply-driven that is not sustainable (e.g., persons with disabilities should be consulted to identify their needs before interventions are delivered to them as against being fostered on them by stakeholders based on their felt-needs in line with Article 4 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).
- The emphasis on disability disaggregated data by gender, disability, and age in tracking the progress on disability inclusion across all sectors and interventions among MDAs, CSOs, and OPDs is more urgent than ever before. This is needed to track the progress of disability inclusion across various interventions. An example of such initiatives happened with the support of the African Polling Institute (API) to the National Bureau of Statistics and the introduction of participatory research in Nigeria led by University Scholars.
- The knowledge exchange webinars served as an eye-opener for most of the participants as they were able to see innovations and approaches to disability mainstreaming and specific interventions happening across the various countries that are shaping and advancing disability inclusion. Participants relayed the need to push forward the disability inclusion agenda in the three countries, by building on some of the innovative programs presented during the webinars. This issue was particularly highlighted by the Disability Rights Funds which described the importance of participatory grant making approaches for promoting disability inclusion.
- The need for the creation of a community of practice where CSOs, OPDs and government can regularly interact, share ideas, form partnerships and collaborate with each other both in-country and across the countries is recommended.
Beneficiaries / Participants
- CSOs: CBM (Nigeria and Cameroun), Sightsavers (Cameroun, Nigeria and Sierra Leone), Plan International, Disability Right Funds,
- OPDs from Cameroun, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
- Nigeria: Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities
- Cameroon: Ministry of Social Affairs (MINAS)
- Sierra Leone: Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs/ Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education/ National Commission for Persons with Disabilities
World Bank Contribution
The World Bank, through the South-South facility, funded the knowledge exchange webinars as face-to-face meetings were not feasible because of the COVID19-related travel restrictions. The design, planning and implementation of this exchange was a collaborative effort among SSI teams based in Washington DC, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, with an active intervention of the Global Disability Inclusion World Bank Team.
Overall, the participants were satisfied with the knowledge exchange webinars. They applauded the World Bank initiative which helped shed light on best practices and innovations in the area of disability inclusion across the three countries and offered an open communication channel between the different stakeholders to have a candid discussion on the key challenges that hindered the disability inclusion agenda. They were happy with the richness of the webinar contents and the innovation happening within the disability space across the various countries.
The next steps would be to build on this knowledge exchange by creating a knowledge sharing platform that will bring together more practitioners and a network of professionals working on disability inclusion.
Recommendations were as follows:
- An urgent need to create a platform where continuous learning can take place. Accordingly, this will help guard against duplication and multiplicity of similar projects, address issues about inadequate coordination, and reduce the effect of working in silos by INGOs, MDAs, and OPDs working on mainstreaming and providing disability-specific interventions.
- Also, a proposal for a physical meeting for the next phase of the engagement was suggested. The aim is to create more time for networking, strengthen engagement and facilitate future collaboration and opportunities to share experiences, network, promote peer-to-peer learning and update them on emerging practices and lessons learned appropriately.
- Governments and other donor partners should invest more resources in building the capacities of organizations for persons with disabilities in the respective countries.
- The need for a committee of practice to be established across the three countries that will involve came to the forefront.
New insight and knowledge gained:
The knowledge exchange participants gained a better understanding of the challenges faced by the three countries across disability inclusion among civil societies, governments, and organizations of persons with disabilities. They were able to reflect on the applicability of these learnings to their country’s context and further advance possible innovative approaches towards disability inclusion. Some of the examples include the disaggregation of data and support to the National Bureau of Statistics by the African Polling Institute, the capacity building of human resources managers in the private sector on the Inclusion Work Project by Sightsavers Nigeria; the development of inclusive educational policies by Sightsavers Sierra Leone and advancing the political participation of persons with disabilities within the governance system in Cameroun was presented by Sightsavers Cameroun.
Others included the mentorship of human resources managers and persons with disabilities through the Chartered Institute of Management on the employment of persons with disabilities; these initiatives led to the employment of about 65% of mentees under the scheme among many other successes recorded.
The knowledge exchange webinars offered an opportunity for participants to learn innovative and programmatic approaches using practical experience and diverse perspectives in promoting the advancement of disability and gender inclusion reforms in their countries. Some good examples came from the Sierra Leone Association for Persons with Albinism (SLAPWA), where the impact of their advocacy led to significant changes in the landscape of persons with albinism. Also, the Disability Rights Funds approach of putting power in the hands of OPD’s and persons with disabilities to drive the agenda and prioritizing support for marginalized and emergent groups of persons with disabilities using grantmaking processes shed lights on the capability of organization of persons with disabilities in Nigeria.
Improved need for collaboration and partnership:
The participants across CSOs, MDAs, and OPDs identified the need for effective collaboration and synergy towards advancing the disability inclusion agenda in their various countries. Participants were eager to undergo some study tours and exchange visits towards improving their learnings on disability inclusion. Examples of this was exhibited by the presentation of CBM Nigeria within the humanitarian space in the Northeast Region of Nigeria, where a disability audit led by them brought about improved partnerships and collaboration between governments, International NGOs and UN Agencies under the NENTAD Project in Nigeria, CBM Cameroun had an exchange visit to replicate some of these learnings and also received technical support towards their humanitarian program in the southern part of Cameroun.
Enhanced networking and coordination:
From the outset of the webinars, participants from the various countries were unequivocal in their call for more networking opportunities and coordination both within their countries and with the participating countries. The participants from Sierra Leone have already taken the initiative to establish this mechanism in their work. Majority of participants, agreed on the need to have an effective coordinating team in their respective countries.
New and innovative approach towards disability inclusion:
The webinars exemplify innovative and programmatic approaches towards empowering persons with disabilities across civic engagement, access to employment, education and inclusive humanitarian actions. A good example was the Disability and Development nexus model being initiated by ActionAid Nigeria, where project was led by persons with disabilities in engaging their communities towards development focused issues, with women with disabilities playing the leading roles in the northern part of Nigeria that is more patriarchal in nature.
A) Ministries, department and agencies of governments (MDAs): Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Federal Ministry of Information, National Orientation Agency
B) Civil Society Organizations CSOs: ActionAid, Africa Polling Institute, CBM, Sightsavers, British Council (ROLAC project) Plan International, Disability Rights Fund.
C) Organization of Persons with disabilities OPDs: Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
A) Ministry, Development and Agencies (MDAs): Ministry of Social Affairs (MINAS)
B) Civil Society Organizations (CSOs): Sightsavers, CBM International,
C) Organizations of Persons with Disabilities: Center for Empowerment of Females with Disabilities (CEFED)
A) Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs): Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs/ Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education/ National Commission for Persons with Disabilities Educational Centre for the Blind and Visual Impairment (ECBVI), Milton Margai School for the Blind (MMSB).
B) Civil Society Organizations: Dorothy Springer Trust, Leonard Cheshire Disability, World Hope International, ActionAid.
C) Organizations of Persons with Disabilities: Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI), Association of Persons with Albinism (SLAPWA), Freetown Cheshire Home; Welfare Society for the Disabled-Sierra Leone (WESOFOD-SL)