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UN-HABITAT continues to empower disabled youth to make a difference in Sierra Leone

UN-HABITAT continues to empower disabled youth to make a difference in Sierra Leone

The Programme Director of Handicapped Youth Development Association (HYDA), Mohamed Alicious Kamara has just returned from a week of project management training by UN-HABITAT for beneficiaries of the Urban Youth Fund in Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania, from the 13-17 December, 2010.

The training was designed to build the capacity of beneficiaries of the UN-HABITAT Youth Development Fund in order to take an active and effective role in the implementation of   projects to ensure proper management and accountability of funds.  The youth groups represented at the session all run their own projects in areas such as employment creation, entrepreneurship, education, environment, health and safety and building political awareness amongst youth. These activities encourage participation in decision-making processes by the youth to become responsible citizens of their respective countries and leaders of tomorrow.

The course, which attracted participants from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Palestine, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe, was opened by the Honourable Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development of the United Republic of Tanzania and former Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Anna Tibaijuka.

In her opening remarks, Tibaijuka highlighted issues related to young people as being central to solving the extensive urbanization problems of the developing world. ‘’Youth have the highest rate of unemployment and in many ways are the most vulnerable to the social problems caused by unemployment and poverty.  At the same time they are the promise of the future, and failure to invest in the young generation imposes great constraints on the potential for future development’’, she said.

“In order for youth to become leaders of today and tomorrow, to be able to address and solve the problems created by the leaders of yesterday, we have to create an enabling environment.  Capacity building and training of young people with necessary skills be it in governance, entrepreneurship, information technology or community development are key to this,” said Tibaijuka. The Minister ended her remarks by echoing the United Nations Secretary General statement that “Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in decision-making of local, national and global levels.”

Speaking after the event, Mohamed said ‘’the training was very productive. Seeing  young people  striving to help make  a difference  was quite impressive. I felt everyone was listening to each other well and there was a real feel of understanding between us all. I was quite shocked at how valued my presence was for being the only disbaled youth there, so being most closely linked to diability youth issues, and for being a  a victim of the decade civil conflict in  Sierra Leone’’.

In a desperate move to advocate the plight of his colleagues, Mohamed said. ‘’I hope that this development will appeal a good sense on the government of Sierra Leone not to evict us from the only place we called home, the building we  have been living in for the past 10 years, since after we were displaced by the war’’. He further deplored, ‘’we are not only shocked but totally dismayed; that the government could issue an eviction notice to us to leave the building. This is a clear manifestation by government to show that indeed Sierra Leone is   one of the worse countries for disabled people to live in. It’s seems like the government want us to go and sleep in the street and become hopeless beggars to fend for ourselves’’.

This action, Mohamed argued, was in violation of their human rights to enjoyment of property as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and requested the government in its constitutional duties to accord the building for their development.

And, as the United Nations Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities notes, the Convention marks a “paradigm shift” in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free, and informed consent as well as being active members of society.

The UN-HABITAT Opportunities Fund for Urban Youth-led Development was established with the support of the Government of Norway and was launched on 4 November 2008 at the fourth session of the World Urban Youth Forum in Nanjing, China.  The Global fund disburses about USD 1 million annually and provides grants up to USD 25,000 to organisations led by young people, aged 15-32 years.

HYDA is among the proud recipients of USD 20,000 grant to implement its ‘Disability is Not Inability’ project, to assist over 300 urban disabled youth in Freetown, mostly orphans, children affected by the war and vulnerable young mothers and girls who will benefit from the grant through basic education, ICT, enterprise development and vocational skills training.

The project is co-funded by the Antoine Foundation and Live to the Max International in the UK. Both organisations have considerable expertise in the field of youth development and significant experience in special needs education and disability issues.  Messeh Kamara, 23, Trustee of the Antoine Foundation and Co-director of Live to the Max International; is supporting the project in his capacity as the Goodwill Ambassador for HYDA. “We have started a few years ago and there is still a long way to go, but we are making progress! We are keen to channel our resources and skills to help the disabled youth in their quest to implement their Disability is Not Inability Project.  But, there’s more to do — and we need the help of government and non-governmental institutions to get it done’’, Said Messeh.

From his UK base, Messeh continues to make a passionate appeal for further support to the group. ‘’We are always keen to seek further support from local and international organisations and individuals, both in practical terms and with financial assistance. With your help, we can do much more for our disadvantaged young people; in particular to help them live a better life, and give them skills they need to build meaningful and secure futures for themselves and the community. We need people with skills from all sorts of profession and background.  Our aim is to continue to create new opportunities for young people in Sierra Leone and around the world, and to encourage them to engage in positive behaviour and projects to boost their self esteem, confidence and employability. We understand that these are difficult economic times for many businesses and individuals, but we desperately need to engage your help and support to continue and improve on humanitarian work. We all have a chance to help change the world — now I hope you’ll take a step and join me in supporting our vital projects, so that our remarkable work can make a difference in the lives of Sierra Leone’s disabled youth in 2011 and beyond’’, Messeh pleaded.

Editor’s note:

Handicapped Youth Development Association (HYDA) was founded in 1998 as a response to salvage the numerous social ills faced by the disabled youth in post conflict Sierra Leone.  HYDA is dedicated to the goal of enhancing the full and equal participation of young people with disabilities in social, political and economic life as well as providing an enabling environment for the enjoyment of their fundamental human rights.

For media relations, interviews or more information about HYDA and the project, please direct your queries below:

Handicapped Youth Development Association
15 Ecowas street, Freetown
Tel (Sierra Leone): + 232 (0)30307987/76 66 19 32 /76 62 59 69
Tel (International UK): + 44(0)7944510446
Email: presidentfor2037@yahoo.com
Website: www.hyda.8m.net
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