Gill Atkinson, acting British High Commissioner, hosted a gathering of members of Nigeria’s disability rights community and their advocates as well as representatives of the diplomatic community in Abuja.
The theme for the event was the progressing the SDGs with and for persons with disabilities – aligning with International Day’s theme this year.
Attendees were treated to panel discussions which included key reflections from Mr James Lalu, the Executive Secretary to the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and Mr Jake Epelle, CEO to TAF Africa alongside a performance by the Deaf Can Dance group.
The forum was also an opportunity to spotlight women leaders in the disability space, and to learn about the particular Health and Social Care challenges faced by women living with disabilities in Nigeria which is especially relevant during 16 Days of Activism.
Acting High Commissioner, Gill Atkinson said:
‘As I prepare to leave Nigeria, it was a priority for me that the final event I host should be one that brings the spotlight onto the challenges faced by the disabled community in Nigeria. I live with a disability myself and I know that, even with a good employer and a strong legal framework, it can be extremely challenging for people with disabilities to fulfil their capabilities and potential.
“It is particularly shocking that it is estimated that only 12% of children with disabilities are in education. I know from my own experience that people with disabilities can and do make a full contribution to society – I hope that by speaking out I can help make a positive impact in Nigeria.
“While legal developments are part of the necessary change, it is also vital that this is mirrored by culture and attitude changes too.’
More shocking reports
There are no accurate figures on disability in Nigeria, but millions of people have disabilities.
It is estimated that unemployment rates are over 60% against a national rate of 21.5% and that only 12% of children are in education compared with 57% for those without.
Women with disabilities are also up to four times more likely than other women to experience violence.
The Government of Nigeria has ratified the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities UNCRPD and passed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act in 2018.
In 2015, the Government also passed the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act.