Ghana / 26 sep 2017

Persons with disabilities (PWDs), and for that matter physically disabilities, have always been seen as dependents and incapable of contributing to the socio-economic growth of the country until quite recently (about four decades back) when gradually some of them were given the necessary recognition to the extent that one was made a Minister of State in the immediate past government. Currently there is a legislative instrument in our governance making it possible for them to access 2% of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) for their upkeep. Unfortunately it has not been easy for them to fully benefit from this policy though most of them, especially the blind and severely crippled, prefer to be begging by the roadsides where they make a lot of money from people’s sympathy. Unfortunately this is not the situation that those with intellectual disabilities find themselves. The physically challenged people bully their way through and keep whatever is given them from the government just because those with intellectual disabilities in most cases cannot not fend for themselves especially the cerebral palsy group that are intellectually disabled and whose parents do everything for them. The PWDs argue that the parents are not disabled and therefore should let their children come themselves. This is because of their ignorance and inability to appreciate the gravity of intellectual disability. The allocation of a percentage of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) for persons with disabilities is enshrined in the DACF Act (Act 455) of the Ghana Constitution, with the Disability Act mandating the National Council for Persons with Disability in collaboration with the GFD under the authority of the Minister for Employment and Social Welfare, in cooperation with the DACF and with the approval of the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, to provide guidelines on the disbursement and management of the DACF to Persons With Disabilities. Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, over the years, have been excluded during the allocation of the portion of the DACF reserved for persons with disabilities for various reasons. The rights of the PWIDs and their families have been neglected because they do not have a voice to fight for their rights. THE PROBLEM The exclusion of PWIDs from the allocation of the DACF component reserved for PWIDs can be attributed to a myriad of factors: 1. The PWIDs are not recognized in their communities as persons with disabilities. This is due to the lack of knowledge about intellectual disabilities among community members in Ghana which leads to spiritual connotations being attached to intellectual disability. Due to this PWIDs are not considered as PWDs, thus being denied access to the portion of the DACF allocated to PWDs. 2. The allocation of the DACF over the years have favored the traditional disability groupings (the visually impaired, the hearing impaired and the physically disabled) due to the ‘visual’ nature of their disabilities. IG and PWIDs until recently were not a recognized disability group so PWIDs were denied the right to the component of the DACF allocated to PWDs. This has led to the exclusion of PWIDs from the whole DACF allocation process. 3. Most PWIDs and their parents/caregivers live in abject poverty especially in the rural areas where most cases of intellectual disability are reported. Most of these PWIDs and their parents/caregivers are also illiterate or semi-literate. Due to this, most of them are unaware of that a portion of the DACF is allocated to PWDs which they can have access. The stigma attached to ID forces most of the PWIDs and their caregiver (mostly the mothers) to be ostracized or live on the margins of society, totally unaware of the DACF. 4. The few PWIDs and their parents/caregivers who are aware of the component of the DACF have challenges understanding the application process of the DACF. Most PWIDs and their parents/caregivers are not educated on the DACF application process so they end up employing the wrong approach to gain access and see their applications rejected. 5. The confusion about the representatives of PWIDs is also an issue which prevents them from accessing the DACF. It is common knowledge that PWIDs have problems with communication thus they cannot advocate for themselves. In view of this, the parents/caregivers represent the PWIDs. This arrangement has caused tensions in some spheres due to the arrangement in the more ‘traditional” disability groups where the PWDs represent themselves. This has caused PWIDs to be discriminated against due to the unwillingness of communities to accept that parents should represent children with ID. This is also evident in the application for the DACF by parents/caregivers of PWIDs who do so, on behalf of their wards. However, this attitude is changing gradually because the Ghana Federation for Disability Organisations now recognizes that parents/caregivers are the voice of the PWIDs and they can apply for the DACF on behalf of their wards. 6. PWIDs and their parents are a marginalized and neglected group in our society. The years of stigmatization and discrimination has resulted in parents/caregivers feeling dejected and neglected. They have low self-esteem and shun away from society. They feel let down by society and so they do not want to be further disgraced by applying for the DACF and being rejected which is the feeling most parents/caregivers have. There is a lack of confidence in the allocation process on the part of parents/caregivers, who have resolved to avoid the stress involved in the application process. 7. Compounded is the fact that the administrators of the fund are themselves culpable of this error. Their failure to appreciate the fact that some PWIDs even find it too difficult, if not impossible, to stand up let alone walk and reason for themselves. 8. There are a few NGOs that fight for their cause but this is mostly at the national level where we have the seat of government. Those in the rural communities are usually left to fend for themselves. It is against this backdrop that the GAPVOD Secretariat shall team up with two of our membership – Kids and Single Parents Care Foundation (Kumasi) and Better Life for Women (Obuasi), both in the middle belt of Ghana and about 300km from the capital Accra, with little access to vital information to educate the expected participants and create awareness among the constituency on rights issues as well as the need for inclusion in socio-economic issues of PWIDs. METHODOLOGY 1) Travel to Kumasi and Obuasi on 3 occasions 2) Hold strategic meetings with the two NGOs 3) Make the necessary contacts with the Traditional authorities, government agencies, opinion leaders, women groups, PWD groups and Parents Self Help Groups of the PWIDs. 4) Arrange for conference or durbar venues 5) Contact media houses for coverage 6) Arrange for other logistics 7) Hold the participatory meetings 8) Submit reports to the appropriate quarters 9) Make two follow-ups within the next three months to monitor the 2% DACF disbursement among the PWDs and PWIDs EXPECTED IMPACTS 1) Awareness of PWID rights created 2) Target constituencies educated on PWIDs 3) Parents of PWIDs given the needed recognition/relief 4) Reduction in stigmatization 5) DACF benefits equitably distributed 6) Atmosphere of inclusion created