On 3 December every year, the world commemorates International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year, we spoke with Uzoamaka Anita Asiegbu, Programme and Inclusion Analyst for UN Women, to better understand her role in the Nigeria Country Office.

Disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal or environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. When persons who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments interact with these barriers, the barriers put them in the category of persons with disabilities.

1.         How would you describe your typical work week?

I don’t think there is a typical work week, but most times, my week includes a daily review of programme colleagues’ work to ensure that they are inclusive and supporting them to mainstream disability and other vulnerable areas into their programme implementation. I also provide technical inputs to strengthen both new and old project documents and concept notes to help mainstream inclusion into programmes and projects. I identify opportunities for strategic advocacy by UN Women to expand the awareness of different stakeholders and development partners on the priorities of women and girls facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Additionally, I advise and represent the UN Women Nigeria Country Office at weekly events and activities around disability inclusion at the UN, at the local and national level, and even at the global level.

2.         What is the situation of persons with disabilities in Nigeria, including that of women and girls with disabilities?

There are an estimated 30 million persons with disabilities in Nigeria. In 2019, on 23 January, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions on those who violate it.

Implementation has been sluggish  attitudinal barriers such as social stigma and environmental barriers such as inaccessible structures still exist for persons with disabilities. There are also several institutional barriers, such as discriminatory policies and legal frameworks that hinder persons with disabilities from effectively participating in activities equally with others.

For women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria, these barriers are amplified. They experience discrimination based on multiple aspects of their identities, their gender, their disabilities, etc. These exclusions and discriminatory practices, and the lack of adequate gender-disaggregated data on persons with disabilities, in turn contribute to poverty and prevent them from participating in public discourse, political representation, and/or development decision making.

3.         You’ve been working with UN Women as the Programme and Inclusion Analyst. What is the most urgent thing that needs to be done (for more inclusion), in your opinion?

Through sensitizations and capacity building, people will understand clearly that persons with disabilities are equal members of society and deserve equal opportunities like people without disabilities. Discrimination against disabilities will reduce, and people will be willing to remove barriers that hinder persons with disabilities from participating in various aspects of society.

4.         What are UN Women and other agencies doing to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities, especially women and girls, are included in various aspects of society?

Already there is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international human rights treaty of the United Nations intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. Also, there is the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, which provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all pillars of the work of the United Nations. The UN Country Team in Nigeria has a Disability Inclusion Inter-Agency Coordination Mechanism whose goal is to provide policy advice to the UN Country Team in implementing the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, maintaining the prominence of disability inclusion in both programmatic and operational areas.

Specifically, UN Women has made an extra effort to ensure the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities through the design of UN Women’s policy strategy entitled The Empowerment of Women and Girls with Disabilities – Towards Full and Effective Participation and Gender Equality.

5. What are some of the most memorable moments in your line of work?

My best memories are from the capacity-building sessions. The disability inclusion brown bag session for UN Women staff, the inclusion session for UN Women Spotlight Initiative implementing partners, the inclusion session for youth groups advocating for the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, the inclusion session for UN Volunteers, and a good number of others. These sessions have taught me that people are keen to include people from vulnerable areas, but most don’t know how to. Building accessible structures, designing accessible projects, and other reasonable accommodations will be resolved when society understands how to do them.

6. Who are some of the people that inspire you and the work that you do?

I, Uzoamaka Anita Asiegbu! My advocacy for disability inclusion and mainstreaming is inspired by my personal experiences as a person with a disability. I want to build a world where all people with disabilities and I are treated as equal humans. Where barriers no longer exist and we can access education, work, etc. without discrimination.

As someone passionate about gender equality and disability inclusion, I get to do both in my career, which is exciting for me.

Fifteen per cent of the world’s population have at least one disability. Women and girls constitute half of the 15 per cent. Mainstreaming disability-related issues and providing reasonable accommodations ensure that all women and girls, including those with disabilities, have a seat at the discussion table in all sectors throughout society. Read more about UN Women’s work on disability and inclusion.

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