Children with disabilities are an important component of the human diversity that are often excluded in family and community life for cultural, systemic and communicational reasons. For any true and lasting development to be achieved, the potentials of every member of the society have to be explored and exploited to the fullest for the benefit of all citizens.
Unfortunately, persistent negative perceptions and attitudes continue to abound about children with disabilities in most Cameroonian communities, thereby shutting the doors of opportunities and full participation for this group of citizens. Breaking these negative perceptions and attitudes is a continuous daunting process that requires the cumulated efforts of every relevant stakeholder.
In line with this motivation, the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS) Empowerment and Disability Inclusive Development EDID team, led by the Program Manager embarked on a two week crusade in the East and two Northern Regions of the country from July 16- 30, 2020.
In the East Region, the Passionate Sisters, the Partner Organization of the CBCHS in the Region led the team to undertake advocacy visits to the Lord Mayor of the Bertoua I Municipality and the Regional Delegate of Social Affairs.
In a short but fruitful work session with Mr. Bembell D’ Ipack Cromwell, the Lord Mayor of Bertoua I council, Mrs. Agho Glory, the EDID Program Manager presented the work of the CBCHS in the disability sector in the country, the challenges encountered in inclusion in mainstream development, and the necessity of partnering with local Councils, especially in the era of decentralization for children with disabilities to be considered in all development plans of the Council.
In response, the Lord Mayor, Mr. Bembell pledged to work in closer collaboration with the Passionate Sisters, which will translate by allocating a percentage of the Council’s budget annually to meet the needs of children with disabilities. To seal and sustain the blossoming collaboration, a memorandum of understanding will be signed in the coming months to concretely improve the lives of children with disabilities in the Bertoua I municipality.
The second advocacy meeting took the team to the office of the Regional Delegate of Social Affairs (MINAS) East. The discussions here centered on the various ways the delegation can provide technical assistance to enhance the work of the Passionate Sisters in the region. The Regional Delegate also promised to liaise with other governmental and humanitarian organizations in the Region to meet other areas of need of CwDs’ not covered by the Passionate Sisters to improve their quality of life in a meaningful and lasting way.
Another major highlight of the work in the East Region was visits to program beneficiaries. In all the five homes randomly visited, the EDID team was amazed with the quality of work the Passionate Sisters carry out in an environment which is not very disability friendly.
The willingness of key stakeholders visited to put hands on deck to turn the tides of exclusion and embrace inclusion for the betterment of the lives of CwDs was a demonstration of hope that “No one will be left behind” in the development train in the East Region.
The EDID program team was in the northern part of the country at the time of this report.