Handicapped Youth Development Association breathes a sigh of relief after getting UN-HABITAT backing for disability project in Sierra Leone with $20,000 grant
Freetown – A DISABLED YOUTH-led centre that almost had to close its doors is celebrating a new lease of life with the help of a UN-HABITAT grant from its Urban Youth Fund which awards grants worth in total close to USD one million annually.
The Handicapped Youth Development Centre had looked like closing, as the Freetown City Council has issued many eviction notices and continued pressure for the group to quit the building which is home to over 300 disabled youth, mostly orphans, children affected by the war and vulnerable young mothers and girls. The sad chapter of the decade war in Sierra Leone has made life for disabled persons became so terrible that some can hardly find food and shelter in the country.
The centre will be shut down unless emergency funding prevents the youth from being homeless. But thanks to the UN-HABITAT for providing a grant of $20,000 to support the group‘s Disability Is Not Inability initiative, a 10-month project targeting urban disabled youth in the capital, Freetown, with training courses in information and communication technology (ICT), entrepreneurship and vocational skills.
The project, which was selected from among 1,500 applications from 85 countries, was announced on 12 August, which is observed as International Youth Day. The award come from UN-HABITAT’s flagship Youth-led Development Fund, which is dedicated to supporting innovative ideas aimed at alleviating poverty, improving employment prospects for young people and increasing the participation of young people in democratic processes.
“My congratulations go to these youth groups for their outstanding projects,” said Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. “The winning applications contain innovative ideas that will truly contribute towards sustainable urbanization and I wish them every success in their projects and their future.”
Mr. Mohamed Alicious, the Chairman of the Handicapped Youth Development Organisation and project coordinator sincerely thanked the UNHABITAT on behalf of the Association for providing the grant. ‘’I think UN-HABITAT offers our programme a good opportunity to accelerate disabled youth development and participation. Every one among the disabled youth, wherever they live, should be able to contribute, to play role in this world present and future. The disabled have been marginalised and waited too long for this. The time is now for us to pursue our own development. This funding will bring about many positive changes for young people living with disabilities by helping us get on track towards fulfilling our potential, Mohamed said. “We want the same things as other young people. We want to have friends and relationships, doing the things we enjoy, and be more involved in nation building. We also have our future ahead of us, and we want to plan for a bright future where we can live the lives we choose.
Ms. Mariatu B. Conteh, one of the potential beneficiaries of the project said: “This is great news, its make tears of joy runs through our eyes! All of my colleagues, and members are delighted that the UN-HABITAT has decided to support our project. We hope to benefit from some special, life changing opportunities and give everyone involved in the project the opportunity to enjoy new experiences and get a real sense of achievement.”
The grant application was supported by Messeh Kamara, a 23 years old Sierra Leonean based in the United Kingdom who serves as an unpaid Goodwill Ambassador for the disabled youth in his role as Coordinator of the Sierra Leone Orphaned and Disabled Programme (SLOD) supported by the Antoine Foundation, a UK based charity. “I was drawn to the Handicapped Youth Development Association by their successful track record of empowering their fellow disabled youth to make a greater, more significant impact on their lives and communities. I’m also impressed by their courage and determination, despite all odds, Messeh, said. ‘’One of the best things about the project is that the disabled youth themselves will be running the project, and planning the activities, so I want to call on all sectors of the youth community, charities, government and non-governmental organisations to join us as we seek to promote the interests of our disabled young people; and help them to be the best that they can be, he added’’.
Messeh’s clarion call has already attracted the endorsement of the Commonwealth Secretariat and other like-minded institutions and individuals. ‘’It is good to hear about the amazing progress you have made in support of young people including those with disabilities. In this context, I would be happy to assist you in establishing contact at the UN Secretariat for PWDs in New York to see how we can also provide support’’ said , Dr Fatiha Serour , Director Youth Affairs Division in the Commonwealth.
The Disability is Not Inability Project is all about showcasing and engaging disabled youth in society by ensuring they have the best opportunities to learn new skills, lead meaningful lifestyles and make positive contributions to their communities. The grant will enable the youth better to provide education, job and other essential services that are urgently needed to improve the livelihoods of disabled persons, especially the poor.
This project will be achieved through four components and cross-cutting aspects which include: basic education, ICT, enterprise development and vocational skills training, housing , community integration and job placement, training to address HIV/AIDS issues; peace and conflict management, psychosocial support, conducting surveys and publications; rebranding website to increase network-building, rganise conferences on disability; support to advocacy and awareness-raising activities and ;provision of micro-credit and start –up kits for beneficiaries.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called “a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities” – was adopted by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006, and was opened for signature and ratification on 30 March 2007.
The Convention asserts the rights of people with disabilities to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities. It also addresses the need for persons with disabilities to have access to public transport, buildings and other facilities and recognizes their capacity to make decisions for themselves.
In 2009, the government ratified the UN convention on the Rights of disability, however there is still the lack of commitment and understanding about the problems of disabled, which acts as an obstacle to accessing job, social interaction and public facilities. The United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone have been badly criticised by disabled groups in Sierra Leone as not showing the much seriousness needed to solve the problems and needs of the disables in the country. Hon. Julius Nye Cuffie, the first disabled lawyer and elected Member of Parliament in Sierra Leone, once said: ‘It is my opinion that from that very moment it impinges on Government to endeavour to practicalise the provisions of the Convention so that the very wretched lives of the ordinary disabled person on the streets can be visibly uplifted. That Government should, as a matter of urgency, introduce free, accessible and inclusive education for all persons with disabilities as provided for in Article 24 of the Convention’’.
It would be difficult to get the government and communities to understand the plights of these disabled youth who are going through terrible conditions of living that disability is not inability and the role of disables is as important to our future prosperity as a country.
The Handicapped Youth Development Association (HYDA) was founded in 1998 as a response to salvage the numerous social ills faced by the disabled youth in Sierra Leone. HYDA is dedicated to goal of enhancing the full and equal participation of young people with disabilities in social and economic life as well as providing an enabling environment for the enjoyment of human rights.Handicapped Youth Development Association 15 Ecowas street, Freetown Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.hyda.8m.net Tel (Sierra Leone): + 232 (0)30307987/76 66 19 32 /76 62 59 69 Tel (International UK): + 44(0)7944510446
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