As elections approach, building capacities of people with disabilities remains an UNMISS priority
UPPER NILE - As South Sudan gears up for its first peaceful, credible, and inclusive elections, the country is at a critical point in its history, not least because it is in the process of drafting its permanent constitution, a social contract that will define how communities in this young nation will live together harmoniously.
For its part, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is doing everything within its power to ensure that the rights of every citizen are upheld, especially those who are living with disabilities.
People with disabilities have fewer opportunities than others, but with support, many of them can get the chance to work, serve their communities and their country.
It is based on this premise that the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Human Rights Division organized a workshop for disabled people in Renk, Upper Nile state.
25 members of the Association for People Living with Disabilities attended the event, including 11 women.
The focus of the gathering: Training participants on advocacy skills and providing them with better knowledge of their rights.
Discrimination against disabled people and their full inclusion remain serious challenges that must be overcome.
Miri Annie, a participant, highlighted the importance of protecting the rights of disabled persons. “Often, disabled people are completely overlooked. We exist on the margins of society. However, we have the potential to become productive members of society, given the right opportunities,” she stated.
Access to education and healthcare as well as limited chances of employment are only some of the hardships that participants claimed they faced.
In Renk, therefore, they have formed their own Association, that advocates for disability rights.
A consensus at the forum was that they need support and also better consideration and representation in decision-making.
“Our physical shortcomings do not mean that we can’t have constructive opinions about South Sudan’s future. We have a role to play in the ongoing peace process and it is time we are no longer ignored by our leaders,” said Ahmed Ernick, passionately.
Mr. Ernick added that “this workshop is the best platform to show everyone that we add value to our communities.”
In conclusion, Emily Nthiga, a Human Rights Officer with UNMISS, applauded the free and frank discussions at the forum. “UNMISS wants to build capacities and empower people with disabilities in South Sudan. We believe that with the right tools and knowledge to advocate for their rights, they will be powerful change agents.”