By Njoka Divine Ngwang
Persons with Disability (PWDs) in the Northwest Region especially the young have been called to shun stigma and other obstacles and be enrolled as active participants in Associations of Persons with Disabilities (APWDs). The Dutch researcher, Daniel Boyco said young PWDs stand to benefit a lot by being active members of such associations. He made the recommendation on August 17, 2018 at the Director of Health Services’ (DHS) Conference Hall in Bamenda during his presentation of the outcome of his research finding under the title, “A look at the Disability Movement: Participation of Persons with Disabilities in NW Cameroon.”
The research took place within the precincts of the CBC Health Services’ Empowerment and Disability Inclusive Development (EDID) Program. Opening the learning event, therefore, EDID Program Manager, Mrs. Agho Glory emphasized the importance of research.
“If your organization must grow, you must indulge in research and you must be able to learn from the findings of your researcher,” she said. Mrs. Agho noted that the CBC Health Services as a learning organization has always been so passionate about research.
The Program Manager added that Daniel’s research is very relevant not only to the EDID Program but also to the public and persons with disabilities. She called on parents of children with disabilities and people with disabilities to belong to associations of PWDs.
Going down memory lane, Mrs. Agho explained that in 2016 the CBC Health Services secured a strategic partnership with a Netherlands-based organization called the Lilian Foundation. She said the two organizations are carrying out a project called, “Breaking down Barriers” which focuses on the inclusion of PWDs. The EDID Program Manager acknowledged that Daniel Boyco is third of the batches of researchers from the Netherlands who have carried out research on this project.
Speaking with Daniel on the reasons for carrying out research on youth participation in the disability movement, he pointed out that it is a basic human right for people with disabilities to be able to participate in the society. In reality, people with disabilities encounter a lot of barriers. Therefore, being in an association is a way for these persons to be able to empower themselves, advocate, and participate in the society.
“My interest is to know the state of participation, particularly the participation of youth who are a predominant part of the population,” added Daniel.
Explaining his findings, Daniel pointed out that there is a very strong social movement made of many organizations that link together with the Coordinating Unit of Persons with Disabilities (CUPWDs) including young people but said there are a lot of barriers as most of the associations are built around peers. Daniel noted that there are associations that are made up of predominantly young people and others that are predominantly made up of old people.
The researcher recommended that it is necessary to empower and include the youth in our associations, because if we have only elderly people in our association, then our association are bound to die. Youths are the driving force of a country he stated.
“We often think of the youths as being the future but that is a mistake, they are the present. The youths are the force of the country, so if we want our associations to be strong and dynamic, we need youths in them and in leadership positions. So, we need to empower and include them,” explained Daniel.
The Dutch student researcher said the benefits that accrue from belonging in APWDs include: socialization spaces where members identify with people who are like them; share their challenges; enhance their coping skills; build their capabilities; enhance and learn craftsmanship, and computer skills to empower themselves to be ready for the job market.
The lack of knowledge of the existence of APWDs, fear of stigma, insecurity in the Northwest Region, inaccessibility of some association meeting areas, communication difficulties, financial hindrances are some of the identified challenges that make it difficult for youth and PWDs in the Northwest Region to participate in disability movements.
After brainstorming, participants at the session proposed that youth participation in disability movements could be increased through sensitization via all mediums including churches, schools, government and local authorities, giving youth positions of responsibility, organizing associations and capacity building workshops and initiatives, and mobilizing financial assistance for members amongst others.