Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of about 150 million. Among this number, 10 million people are disabled and about 9 out of the 10 million disabled people live below the poverty line. In Nigeria there are social stigmas associated with disability to the extent that families often reject their own members with disability. Generally speaking, disabled people are seen as ‘good for nothing’ and they suffer severe psychological problems. Street begging is their main source of income and their daily bread depends primarily on that. They live in makeshift dwellings and these dwellings do not provide any protection from the weather or human induced danger. Stories abound of disabled persons who have been victims of ritual killing. Disabled people are highly vulnerable to all forms of vices and diseases. Most disabled young people often times resort to taking hard drugs due to lack of proper guidance, counseling and mentoring.
Access to education and employment opportunities are limited to the disabled persons due to poverty and discriminatory practices they face in the society. The Nigerian system has no legislation which protects the rights of disabled people. Over the years, government and some civil society organizations make efforts to improve the situation of the disabled persons through the establishment of institutions and homes for specific groups. The major program run in a few of these homes is training in arts and craft, which are designed for specific group and not for people with different forms of disabilities. Some of the homes are just charity homes where people go and make donations of food, clothing and accessories to the inmates. The emphasis or aim of such homes does not address the issues of discrimination which severely subject the people to degradation, isolation, poverty, lack of skills and unemployment or personal development and growth which is crucial in any human endeavor. Neither does it assist them in setting up their own businesses for economic empowerment nor gaining acceptance and integration into the society.
I am Celine Osukwu, a Nigerian lady living with kyphosis. I developed this disability before I was 5 years old. In other words, I grew up with the disability and passed through stages of life battling with challenges posed by being a woman and being disabled in a patriarchal and acute capitalist society, a society where ‘survival is only for the fittest’, a society where ‘might is right’. I do not feel daunted by the experiences I personally have from primary school stage to the present, but rather feel inspired hence I decide to live the rest of my life serving and protecting the interest of disabled individuals especially the women and girls. I nursed an ambition to contribute my little to improve the lot of disabled individuals especially the women and girls through a Non Governmental Organization (NGO). I am happy that in July 2009, the name Divine Foundation for Disabled Persons was approved and registered charity organization by the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria. Divine Foundation has a mission to provide relevant community based programs and services aimed at the development of disabled persons on the basis of equality, justice and respect for individual’s right. The following are some of the objectives of Divine Foundation (i) To foster self-appreciation, bring disabled persons together for the promotion and realization of their self worth (ii) To empower disabled persons, discourage them from begging and to give succor to the helpless disabled persons by alleviating poverty among disabled persons (iii) To help reduce stigma attached to disability situations and persons with disabilities (iv) To promote unity of action, networking and cooperation among disabled individuals and groups (v) To work closely with individuals, community groups, governments and international organizations to address the needs of peoples with disabilities. I am the founder, one of the registered trustees and the Director. Disabled persons and volunteers are trooping in every day to know how they can benefit or help out. I pray that fund should not be a problem in accomplishing the goals of DFDP. I combine my work with Human Rights Organisation, where I earn some money in order to raise some funds for basic office equipment, with running the DFDP at this early stage of establishment. I have strong faith that I will make it and that DFDP will flourish. Please visit our website: http:dfd.agrojournal.net