Plan’s report has been released in New York today to coincide with the first ever High Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on development and disability.
“Plan is calling on governments in West Africa to implement their legal commitments to children with disabilities, particularly the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This historic meeting is an opportunity to emphasise the importance of eradicating discrimination of children with disabilities not just in West Africa but all over the world,” said Aidan.
The report found that the major cause of exclusion and discrimination was stigma and negative attitudes towards children with disabilities.
The field research conducted in four countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, Niger and Togo – found that community perceptions are the root causes of endemic violence and discrimination against girls and boys with disabilities. Three key factors were found to influence the depth of stigma of individual children with disabilities – their gender, their impairment type and theseverity of the impairment
Examples reported to researchers of what had caused children’s impairments included beliefs that it was a punishment from God; result of “sins” committed by parents; an act by the devil; that the child was a sorcerer; witchcraft on the child/family; or the mother had looked at a disabled child during pregnancy. It is common for children with disabilities to be regarded as “supernatural”, “bizarre” or “demons”.
“In my community, children with cerebral palsy who cannot stand are called snakes because they lie on the ground. To eliminate such children, ceremonies are organised at the river, where the affected child is left to drown and it is said that the snake is gone,” the report quotes a social worker from Togo as saying.
“Stories of abuse and neglect in homes, communities and in schools across Africa are common but not often verified. The majority of girls and boys with disabilities continue to be excluded from formal education and functions of social life. Very often the families are ashamed or believe the child has no ability to learn,” said Aidan Leavy. .
Plan is calling on governments to make children with disabilities a priority at the UN High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development as well as in the ongoing discussions on post Millennium Development Goals, currently being negotiated. The organisation is urging concrete action to ensure that children with disabilities have access to education, protection from violence and abuse; and opportunity to have their voices heard.
Digital copies of the individual country reports and the Executive Summary, including an audio version, are available to view, listen to and download on www.plan-international.org/publications.
Outside the Circle was co-funded by Irish Aid, through the EQUIP education programme managed by Plan Ireland.