In a context characterized by dwindling funding opportunities, negative attitudes towards children with disabilities, poverty and neglect, children with disabilities and especially girls experience the double spell of vulnerability. The EDID program of the CBC Health Services with funding from the Liliane Foundation is using the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) approach to build the capacity of key stakeholders resulting in tangible interventions in the community.
CBR field worker, Mrs. Akwayi Florence Esah of the Regional Delegation of Social Affairs for the West Region, a Partner Organization (PO) of the EDID Program, has been putting in practice skills she has acquired from such trainings. With the help of CBR strategies, she responds on multiple fronts to overcome the challenges she encounters in the course of implementing program activities.
One of such trainings enabled her to come out with her community mapping, which set out a network of stakeholders and collaborators as an impetus to fight for the rights of children with disabilities through legal action, local resource mobilization, advocacy and sometimes lobbying. Her efforts soon paid off when she engaged in a legal battle to defend a beneficiary whose Sexual and Reproductive Health rights were being violated as a result of her disability. She also go into a resource mobilization action to come to the rescue of her client.
The said beneficiary, MAFO Chantal Joelle, 18 years old girl with paralysis of the lower half of the body has attended school due to her disability. Upon her identification, the PO, in line with EDID program’s core approach of child development and enabling environment, enrolled Chantal in a Government Primary School in September 2018 to enable her read and write before proceeding to livelihood opportunities, considering her age. Also, a toilet was constructed to suit her disability while a tricycle was given her to facilitate her movement to and from school.
Unfortunately During the academic year, she became pregnant by a man who did not want to be openly identified with her. The field worker relates: “When Chantal’s parents knew about her condition, they immediately called me. My first reaction was to ask her if she knew the author of her pregnancy. To my relief, she did. But our joy was short lived as the author, a married man with three children vehemently refused his paternity. To make matters worse, his family joined him in derogating not only Chantal, but also, her entire family because of her disability,” laments Florence Esah.
“I was faced with two problems,” Florence explains. “Naturally, Chantal could not give birth normally and her parents could not foot her bills given their financial situation. I took a resolution: The man who took advantage of her in the dark but could not mingle with her in the day will not go unpunished”.
In collaboration with the Parents Support group, Florence chose to tackle the issue of pregnancy amicably. “So a delegation of members of the Support Group in my community went to the quarter head to seek for an amicable arrangement. There, we were lambasted by the accused and his family to the amusement of the quarter head who seemed to take pleasure in every insult dumped on us. From there, we went to the Police Station where the accused did not even turn up after receiving summons. The matter was sent to court where hearings are currently taking place”.
Florence continues her narration: “On the second front, I decided to attend a village development meeting to talk of the need for community members to respect the rights of children with disabilities and to be involved in their lives to attain true inclusion. I used the forum to present Chantal’s case. It is during the session that a local business man opted to take care of her delivery bills,”
The joy of Florence heightened when on Friday, August 16, 2019, Chantal entered into labour. The business man personally transported her to the hospital where she was successfully operated upon. He took charge of all related bills, which amounted to two hundred and twenty two thousand, three hundred francs (2.22, 300 FCFA, 339.1 €). In total, a sum of 450,000 FCFA was raised for the family from diverse sources. A birth certificate was established for the male child to start his life on a better footing than that of his mother who did not have one.
Today, like Florence, many field workers and parents are able to stand up for their children, either to seek for repairs when their children with disabilities are abused or to mobilize resources locally to complement funding received from the Liliane Foundation for the betterment of the lives of their children.
These strides are already successes in themselves, as more people are beginning to understand that children with disabilities are simply part of the human diversity with rights that must be respected. All this wouldn’t have been possible without CBR capacitation under the EDID program. Knowledge, they say is power!