The Hope Inspired Foundation for Women and Youth with Disabilities (HIFWYD) and the Lagos State Chapter of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) have called for the adoption and effective execution of a comprehensive disability policy framework at the Local Government and Local Council Development Areas (LGAs/LCDAs).
The groups made the call during a one-day Policy Dialogue on Implementation of Local Government Disability Framework jointly organized by JONAPWD-Lagos and HIFWYD with support from the Disability Rights Fund (DRF).
While giving her welcome remarks, Janet Adekunle, the Executive Director of HIFWYD, emphasized the importance of local government’s involvement in disability policy. She emphasized that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) often have closer ties to their local governments than to state and federal disability agencies.
Adekunle explained, “While we currently have national-level policy frameworks for persons with disabilities adopted by approximately 20 states in the country, Lagos State has been at the forefront of disability-related issues and the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
“However, a recurring challenge we’ve identified is that these policies are frequently not extended to the local government level, even though a majority of Persons With Disabilities interact more with their local governments than with national and state departments. It is therefore imperative that we establish functional frameworks at the local government level and assemble dedicated teams to facilitate policy implementation.”
Ejiro Sharon Okotie, the Founder and Board Chair of HIFWYD, also highlighted that the local government disability framework outlines the responsibilities of local governments in ensuring the inclusion of PWDs in development processes and other local affairs, including providing accessible employment, healthcare, and amenities for Persons With Disabilities.
Commending the Lagos State government for its leadership in this regard, Ms. Okotie emphasized the need to extend the progress achieved at the state level to the local government level to ensure the sustained and robust implementation of disability policies.
She also urged OPDs and JONAPWD LGA/LCDA heads in attendance to engage with stakeholders at the local level to ensure development, adding that “it is important to come together to have a Lagos State that is inclusive for all PWDs.”
Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, the Chairman JONAPWD Lagos while presenting the framework explained that the framework “responds to the near lack of institutional capacity in local government councils to support the development of disability-inclusive communities within their communities.”
Adebayo also noted that the association will work closely with all LGA Chairmen to ensure that the framework is institutionalized, as it is essential that the “local government councils serve as the first point of contact to all PWDs for accessing both disability-specific and general services.”
Earlier, Mr. Dare Dairo, the Managing Director of the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), explained that the agency is happy to work with the organizers as the initiative corresponds with LASODA’s focus on setting up disability desk offices across LGAs in the state.
Mr. Dairo buttressed that “we have blueprints to set up disability desk offices in all LGAs. We have developed operational guidelines for how the disability desk offices would function and be sustained.
“Once the disability desk offices are set up, it will be easier and more effective to engage with PWDs across the state,” he added.
Mr. Dairo also urged PWDs to articulate their needs and collaborate with key stakeholders to effectively advocate for their rights with the government.
He emphasized that with every right comes a corresponding responsibility, calling on PWDs to approach their rights with understanding rather than entitlement.