July 15, 2019
By Abdul R. Bedor Kamara
The African Youth With Disabilities Network – Sierra Leone (AYWDN-SL), on Friday 12th July 2019, engaged stakeholders and persons with disabilities (PWDs) at the Grassroots Gender Empowerment Movement (GGEM) hall, John Street in Freetown to popularize the Disability Act 2011 with particular reference to Section 20- 23 for their right to employment.
The AYWDN-SL Country Representative, Abu Bakarr Bangura, gave a brief background of the formation of the network, stating that the network started in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011 with two participants from Sierra Leone, and that the organization is operating in the four regions of Freetown, Bo, Kabala and Kono with 40 steering committee members, 10 in each region as the organization is working on four thematic areas-education, health, sexual and reproductive health, and employment.
He stated that PWDs should have equal employment opportunity, as educated PWDs seem to be more ineffective without employment compared to those in the streets begging.
He further stated that many people only consider the physically challenged in terms of disability, noting, “There are several categories of disability and organizations need to also know the category of the disabled people they are catering for as disability issues are very complex. The environment will also make someone to be disabled.”
According to him, the number of people with disabilities increases daily as there are several disabilities caused by humans through violence, accidents, cruelty, among other inhuman treatment, and disabled women are also abused daily by able men but they are ashamed to report as the platform is not set for them and the authorities seem not to know and understand their plight.
He further stated that inter-sectionality concept with vulnerable people, especially people with disabilities, is very challenging.
He called on government and private institutions to provide the enabling environment for PWD employment and the National Commission for Persons with Disability (NCDP) to popularize the Act with Ministries, Departments and Agencies, and for the private sector to have disability policy to enhance employment opportunities to PWDs and the government to give the political will in supporting the commission, adding that AYWDN-SL is just completing the commission’s and government efforts, and called on the National Revenue Authority (NRA) to take the lead on the advocacy for the employment of PWDs.
Mawusie P. I. Dumbuya, the NCDP Outreach and Advocacy Officer said that the commission needs government support to popularize the Disability Act as the commission has several challenges as government don’t allow them to recruit because of limited resources.
He reiterated that NCDP is facing several challenges that include capacity, mobility with a single vehicle and few staff. He pleaded with the government and other organizations to empower the commission with human resource, funding and mobility to enhance the work of the commission.
He commended the efforts of AYWDN-SL as PWDs require skills and qualifications.
He read Section 19 of the Disability Act 2011 that states, ‘No persons shall deny a person with disability having the requisite skills and qualifications, access to opportunities for suitable employment,’ and Section 23 (1) that state ‘Subject to subsection (2), a private employer who engages persons with disabilities with the requisite skills or may apply to NRA for a deduction from his taxable income of an amount equivalent to 25 percent of the total amount paid as salary or wages to the employee.’
He further said that Section 23 – 1 and 2 states, ‘No deduction shall be made from taxable income pursuant to Section (1) unless the employer present proof – a) certified by the Ministry responsible for labour that he claims the deduction is under his employment and that PWDs so employed is accredited by the Commission as to his disability, skills and qualifications.’
The NRA Assistant Director- Human Resource, Elizabeth Miatta Kamara, acclaimed AYWDN-SL for bringing the Disability Act 2011 to the authority’s knowledge, and disclosed everyone is liable to disability, revealing that it is the first time she is seeing the Disability Act 2011 and assured of the authority’s support as the NRA Commissioner General, Dr. Samuel Jibao, and the authority are a listening institution.
She said that she is always sympathetic with PWDs as her step-mother and sister are disabled and knows what they went through on a daily bases, adding, “We are all vulnerable to disability as we are on the road daily.”
She called on government and the commission, among other stakeholders, to employ PWDs that have the required skills and qualifications.