By Babatope Babalobi
A three day workshop organised by WaterAid in Nigeria ended in Akwanga, Nassarawa state, last Friday with participants advocating for implementation of policies and practices to enable disabled persons effectively access water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services.
The event attended by WaterAid’s partner non governmental organisations in Enugu, Ekiti, Benue, Jigawa and Plateau states as well as Environmental Journalists belonging to the Water and Sanitation Media Network,was focussed on training participants on how to incorporate the principles of ‘Equity and Inclusion’ into WASH programmes.
WaterAid’s Office Manager, Dorcas Akila, in a welcome address said the workshop’s goal is to consider how equity and inclusion for the disabled can work in different organisations and communities; adding that the objectives of the workshop are:
- To understand exclusion and marginalisation of different groups and relation to poverty and development from a right based approach;
- To understand the barriers to inclusion for different groups and how these can be addressed in wash;
- To understand how discrimination and diversity apply to development workers and media organisations; and
- To understand equity and inclusion framework and standards.
The Lead Facilitator, Mr. Ephraim Danladi defined ‘equity’ as the “principle of fairness; it involves recognising that people are different and need different support and resources to ensure their rights are realised; and to ensure fairness, measures must often be taken to compensate for specific discrimination and disadvantages”.
Danladi who is the Programme Support Coordinator of Water Aid in Nigeria, defined ‘inclusion‘ as ensuring that all are able to participate fully, inclusion is not just about improving access to services, but also supporting people to engage in wider processes to ensure their rights and needs are recognised’.
He also said that it is not possible to treat ‘inclusion’ without ‘equity’; and outlines causes of discrimination and exclusion of people as religious, sex orientation, physical disability, cultural context and belief systems.
Emphasising that disabled people like other people are entitled to basic rights, Danladi said: ‘We cannot discuss equity without taking about rights’ and that discrimination ‘can affect the disabled people’s access to fundamental human rights and social services’.
Discussions at the workshop centred on the challenge of removing barriers affecting disabled people to access services. These include individual barriers which can be overcome through interventions that focus on the needs of the disabled; environmental barriers such as barriers to physical access such as steps, narrow pathways, and uneven surfaces; institutional barriers which are usually linked to social and cultural norms and written into policies and legislations; and attitudinal barriers that leads disabled people to believe they are worthless, dependent and in need of support.
A communiqué issued at the workshop, listed various actions that should be taken to ensure equity and inclusion in national processes and programmes:
- Disabled people that are estimated to be 20million Nigerians have needs and rights (such as love, care, education, employment; and the Nigerian society must work generally to identify and remove attitudinal, environmental, and institutional barriers that clock their inclusion.
- Government bodies and the private sector organisations should consciously change systems so that the rights of the people with disability will be addressed; and promote inclusion and diversity in house as a way of challenging discrimination.
- Organisations should promote non discriminatory practices in employment as essential component of equity and inclusion; and work towards removing barriers in employment that are not justifiable.
- Individuals should have a behavioural change towards disabled and disadvantaged people and avoid discrimination in their personal attitude and behaviour to such people.
Participants also resolved to integrate equity and inclusion issues into Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programming by promoting and securing poor people’s right and access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation; and encourage Government and service providers to incorporate equity and inclusion in access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation services programmes towards ensuring all WASH programmes are responsive to the needs and rights of the most marginalised, disadvantaged and disabled.