By Fru Rita Ngum
The Procureur General of the Northwest Region has pledged his commitment in working with the Socio Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disability (SEEPD) Progamm of the CBC Health Services to ensure that persons with disabilities (PWDs) have access to justice. Magistrate Njie Albert Nganje was speaking recently during an advocacy visit that the SEEPD Program paid to his office.
The team that visited the Magistrate was made up of the SEEPD Program Manager, Mr. Awa Jacque Chirac, SEEPD Legal Adviser, Fet Sama, and SEEPD Child Protection Officer, Nsono Josephine. The objective of the visit was to seek ways of enhancing access to justice for people and children with disabilities in the Northwest.
The head of the delegation, Mr. Awa Jacques Chirac, made a presentation on the SEEPD Program, expatiating on the Child Protection component of the Program. The component, he said, focuses on ensuring that children are safe especially children with disability given that they are more vulnerable to abuse in the society.
After highlighting the challenges that children with disability face and what the SEEPD Program has been doing to protect them over the years, Mr. Awa maintained that for these vulnerable members of society to freely access the justice system, some important steps have to be taken.
“It was incumbent on the SEEPD Program and the Procureur Général to ascertain the levels and nature of barriers in terms of infrastructure, communication and access to information by persons with particular disabilities including visual and hearing impairments.
Gaps noticed during the current phase of the SEEPD Program, will be used to inform the next phase of the Program in terms of interventions which may include but not limited to capacity building of both the staff of the legal department and the judicial police,” explained Mr. Awa.
Delighted with the presentation, the Procureur Général stated emphatically that “like medical doctors and lawyers, persons with disabilities must be attended to first when they go to access judicial services.” He commended the CBC Health Services for the efforts to protect children and pledged his readiness to collaborate with the SEEPD Program to ensure that children with and without disability are safe from all forms of abuses.
The outcome of discussions during the visit constitutes one of the greatest achievements the SEEPD Program has recorded in its Child Protection component. The program faced challenges in following up abuse cases in courts because the courts had not intentionally thought of mainstreaming especially children with disability in their processes. It will thus be a dream come true for the SEEPD Program if the outcome of discussions does not only end on papers but is fully implemented.