By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
As Nigeria celebrated its 60th birthday, remembering the sacrifices of heroes past, the Engraced Ones Prayer Support and Advocacy Initiative organized their 3rd annual Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy Prayer/Advocacy walk on October 3, to remind the Government and highly spirited individuals on the plights of special needs children.
The NGO was worried that as the country celebrates 60years, many children, especially special needs children are lacking assistance from government and philanthropists in the country. The children also face rejection from the society at large.
World Cerebral Palsy Day is marked on the 6th of October every year, to recognise and celebrate people living with Cerebral Palsy.
The walk themed; ‘Make your mark’, was celebrated in the streets to rub minds with Nigerian on the challenges of the children in question and to call on people to contribute their quota in assisting the special children.
This year’s walk was highly memorable, as people from other states across the country joined in the campaign.
Here in Abuja; the March which took place in Jikoyi, a suburb in the nation’s capital saw people from different walks of lives, trooping out in green to add their voices to the plights of special needs children.
The campaigners were also educating the general public on the need to identify and assists children with down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy condition.
Speaking, the Corrdinator of Engraced Ones, Mrs, Bibora Yinkere expressed worry over the poor economic wellbeing of parents of special needs children.
She said the NGO will continue to advocate for their rights to education, better care and acceptance. “Government should absorb them and cater for their education. We need diagnostic centers for them to get the best care they need.”
She frowned at some parents who are discriminating against the children living with these conditions.
The Coordinator said some of the parents don’t even have their children with special needs in the family album, “they don’t want the public to know that they have children with special needs; and as such they can’t even take their children with special needs to school.”
She scolded these parents and reminded them that children with intellectual disabilities deserve good life like others, “they can also excel in life, all that they need is extra support from their parents”.
While speaking on the rights of Special needs children, she said they have legitimate rights and needs. “They have a promising future and distinct impacts to make on their world. Please note that the ‘United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ is an important agreement by countries who have promised to protect childrens rights. The ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ explains who children are, all their rights, and the responsibilities of governments.
“For instance, the 23rd item on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child charter detailed the expected treatment of children with disabilities. It states that ‘every child with a disability should enjoy the best possible life in society. Governments should remove all obstacles for children with disabilities to become independent and to participate actively in the community”.
She said government is saddled with the responsibility of removing all obstacles for these children to become independent and participate actively in the community.
“These will include providing for unhindered access to basic health needs, special needs education, provision of required special technical educational aids, etc. These are the approved international standard rights of special needs children. Most nations are doing more towards this goal. But these have remained a mirage in our dear nation.
“We at the Engraced Ones Prayer Support and Advocacy Initiative therefore call on the government of Nigeria to do more in honoring the UN child rights charter of which Nigeria is a signatory, as it concerns special needs children.”
Also speaking, on the significance of the day, Aunty Ada White, said the streets of Jikwoyi was adorned with green color for Cerebral Palsy and Yellow for Down Syndrome with music jingles to get the attention of residents who came out in their numbers,receiving the fliers and materials.
She said the walk was an opportunity to tell the people not to discriminate but instead show love and acceptance to people living with the condition.
“As is expected some had never heard of the condition, some who had seen people with the condition and discriminated and some who have children or family member living with the condition learnt a thing or two.
“There is a saying that droplets make a mighty ocean and we hope that the impact of the people reached would spiral down ending ignorance,discrimination and exclusion.
“Being an Advocacy group, we also advocated for an inclusion of people living with the condition and for more better policies for the benefit of persons living with Cerebral Palsy, down syndrome and other special needs condition.”
Meanwhile, the NGO also visited the Special Needs Orphanage Jesus Kids in Kubwa, Abuja, on the 6th October.