The Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Service has used an event dubbed “Acess2019” to call on stakeholders in Cameroon to enhance access and participation of girls and women with disabilities in health, politics, education, livelihood, arts, and culture.
This event was held against the backdrop that women and girls with disabilities are more likely to face sexual violence and abuse, and less likely to access support before or following an attack. Many of them show a lack of self-esteem linked with economic and psychosocial dependence. Moreover, the vulnerability brought about by this intersectional identity puts women and girls with disabilities at greater risk of gender-based violence.
The Gender and Child Protection Officer of the Socio Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disability (SEEPD) Program Nsono Josephine, was speaking in Yaounde on March 30, 2019 on behalf of the CBC Health Services. The event was co-organized by the Founder of Sisterspeak237, Comfort Musa and the CBC Health Services as one of the main sponsors of the event.
During the event, which brought together women and girls with varied disabilities, Nsono Josephine in an advocacy speech from the CBC Health Services, underlined that CBC Health Services which is one of the leading organizations in promoting disability rights in Cameroon has through her Services for Persons with Disability Program, been empowering women with disabilities in rural areas in the Northwest Region since 2010.
It was visible at the event that women with disability have potentials like their peers without disability as they all pulled the attention of those present with their elegant fashion parade with the aid their wheelchairs, crutches and other assistive devices. This alone was an eye opener that women with disability will fully explore their potentials if infrastructures are accessible, if they are given the opportunity to actively participate and when they have access to devices.
The occasion was also a time for fashion designers to design inclusive clothing, taking into consideration the specificities of the participants and henceforth people with disabilities generally. To the designers, it was their first experience designing for someone with impairments. The environment could have been a barrier to their participation but the CBC Health Services through the EDID Program sponsored the event by adapting the runway of the event venue with ramps and sponsoring the participation of some women with disabilities from the Northwest Region.
Fonda Violet, a girl with a mobility impairment describes the event as one in her life which she will never forget: “Access was one of the most exciting events I have never had the opportunity to be a part of, I felt good being part of it because I knew various actors of the society were present and so our voices and values were going to be amplified and I am convinced it was heard and would be given considerations too.”
The initiative of the Acess2019 which has been applauded by many was born by Comfort Musa when her father could not access structures as a result of a stroke. Having gone through the trauma of seeing her father go through the difficulties of access limitation, it brought to her mind that women with disability who are her soft spot face access difficulties. It dawned on her to organize an event which will enable women and girls with disability who face triple discrimination or jeopardy portray themselves as persons with varying potentials.
The Yaounde event has come and gone but memories remain in the minds of the participants. As a strong advocate for persons with disability, the CBC Health Services continues to harness opportunities to make her voice strong on measures that could be taken to improve on the quality of lives for persons with disability.