Disabled People’s views in Liberia are most of time unnoticed, overlooked and ignored. Even though disabled people speak of issues that hinder their growth and development but much is not being done by government and other humanitarian organizations to address their concerns.
In order to advocate for the rights of disabled people including the visually impaired, physically challenged, deaf, albinos, amongst others in Liberia, the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, the Open Society Foundation Youth Initiative and the Disability Right Initiative in Kenya during the November 2011 African Youth With Disabilities Network Steering committee strategic Planning and Training Session set-up the African Youth with Disabilities Network- Liberia Chapter (AYWDN).
The African Youth with Disabilities Network- Liberia Chapter was founded on February 21, 2012 and incorporated on June 5, 2012. The African Youth with Disabilities Network -Liberia Chapter focuses on advocating for the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD), partnering with relevant stakeholders, including government and civil society organizations and the private sector and creating scholarships support for youth with disabilities at primary, secondary, vocational and Tertiary levels.
African Youth with Disabilities Network Liberia-Chapter is grateful to the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for providing a grant to implement The Capacity Building and Organizational Development Project. The Capacity Building and Organizational Development Project is in 3(three) phases: The establishment of a Liberian Chapter, The Planning and Training Session on the rights of disabled people in Gbarnga, Bong County, and a baseline survey currently being conducted to know the living condition of disabled youth and the various groups of disabled youth in Liberia. Following the survey, a database would be set-up in order for benevolent individuals and institutions interested in assisting disabled youth be cognizant of what disabled youth in Liberia are in need of most.
The Organizational and Development Project also seeks to support AYWDN’s goal mainly implementing its institutional and human capacity programs and creating an inclusive and barrier free society where all youth with disabilities will live in dignity and exercise their basic human rights.
At the moment, government does not support or provide subsidies to the African Youth with disabilities Network-Liberia Chapter but only the Open Society Initiative for West Africa funds the organization. AYWDN Motto is “Dignity, Inclusion and Visibility”. In other words, people should treat the disabled with respect, be included in all activities and not be marginalized and disabled people be seen and heard in public gatherings. People living with disability in Liberia encounter several challenges; including: lack of support to go to school, no means of feeding and sheltering themselves, their exclusion in decision making processes amongst others.
Since the establishment of the African Youth with Disabilities Network-Liberia Chapter, over two hundred disabled youth have benefited from its Scholarship program. AYWDN now has regional representatives in all of the fifteen counties working to ensure the establishment of AYWDN regional chapters in their respective counties.
The Country Coordinator of the African Youth with Disabilities Network-Liberia Chapter, William Yarsiah is appealing to government to put smiles on the faces of disabled people by providing a conducive learning environment for them and ensuring that their basic needs are met.
Mr. William Yarsiah envisages a Liberia 5(five) years from now where able people will respect disabled people regardless of their statuses in society and involve them in any initiative that will develop Liberia. He has urged disabled people in Liberia to speak up in order for their concerns to be addressed through legislation at the same time frowning on disabled people who beg for alms every day. He also has called on disabled people to seek empowerment opportunities.
The Vision Statement of the AYWDN: to ensure an inclusive and barrier free society where all youth with disabilities live in dignity, exercise their rights and participate in all spheres of life. The Mission Statement: to influence international continental, regional and national laws, policies and programs through partnerships and advocacy for the equalization of opportunities and enjoyment of rights for youth with disabilities.
AYWDN vision and mission statements would be an illusion without the assistance of government and other organizations. It is time that we all join hands to empower disabled people in Liberia. As it is often said that “disability is not inability”. African Youth with Disabilities Network -Liberia Chapter kindly solicits material or cash support from any kind-hearted Liberian or charitable organization. AYWDN is located on 21st Street, Sinkor, Fiamah, Matadi Drive, Monrovia, Liberia. Cell numbers: +2310886486683/ +231886205025 or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We at AYWDN anticipate receiving your support soon.