Tuesday, August 12, 2008
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If you didn't already know, most of Africa’s disabled [including the blind, paraplegic etc.] citizens live in deplorable conditions. Most are unemployed and can be found on Africa’s major streets and highways placing themselves in harm’s way as they beg for money to meet their basic needs. Rarely will you find a paraplegic in Africa, for example, with necessary medical equipment i.e. wheelchair. Most navigate the streets and freeways on their hands.
Sadly, a lot of Africa’s citizens have become desensitized to the deplorable conditions of the disabled partly because most are frustrated with economic and political conditions in the continent and are barely trying to keep heads above water. Others just have no idea where to begin helping and still most lack awareness of the plight of the disabled.
[Olu]funke [Funke] Adenodi Akinbuli, our Ladybrille Woman of the Month, a woman passionate about advocating for the disabled. “Among society’s marginalized people, the most vulnerable and excluded are those living with disabilities,” says Akinbuli. “We are all susceptible to [experiencing] a disability. [F]or the average African, disability is a daily observation as major African [countries] and cities are saturated with beggars who have obvious forms of disability.” Akinbuli’s empathy for the fate of the disabled in Africa led her to establish Exodus Guild Inc. a USA based non-profit organization focused on advocating for the rights of the disabled in Africa and locally in the States. “The Exodus Guild, Inc. was [established] to facilitate the inclusion and social welfare of the world’s largest minority group into the public and private domain of public health and education.”
Including the disabled in society’s public and private domain is no cheap venture. Exodus Guild Inc. has indeed experienced and continues to experience its fair share of financial challenges. Yet, one of the biggest hurdles in advocating for the rights of the disabled in Africa is the stigma attached to being disabled. “In addition to the fundamental challenges faced by [Exodus] such as limited resources, the stigma that is inherent to disability remains one of the biggest challenges [we] face,” laments Akinbuli. “Public sentiment assumes that having a disability suggests an inability to perform,” explains Akinbuli. Educating the public that even the disabled “deserve a life of dignity and not one of isolation remains a daunting task, especially in the African community,” adds Akinbuli.
The daunting task and limited resources has seen Akinbuli having a very difficult time sustaining Exodus’s mission to provide “mobility in adversity.” In fact, she has often had to pull from her personal funds for the many programs necessary to help provide dignity and respect to Africa’s disabled communities. Programs such as Project 411-which provides and disseminates information to the disabled; DIS-AIDS, a program that focuses on creating awareness to the susceptibility of the disabled to contract the disease; and CAMPABLE which provides life-changing experiences to children who have physical impairments.
Akinbuli is nevertheless determined to press on. The Bachelor of Science degree holder in Paralegal Studies and a Masters in Urban Affairs plans on fulfilling her childhood goal “to see society operate with a focus on making lives better.” In May of 2008, she completed a graduate certificate program where she conducted a case study on Disability and Stigma from the African perspective. That same May, she received recognition from Boston College as an Outstanding Community Activist of the Year, something she says is her "most gratifying" accomplishment to date.
Akinbuli is also using her professional accolades which includes over ten years experience in public policy for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Medicaid Office, MassHealth; Welfare Agency, Department of Transitional Assistance; and the John Kerry for President, Inc., where she served as National Comptroller to help her with her day-to-day activities at Exodus Guild, Inc.
This month, Ladybrille salutes and celebrates Ms. Olufunke Adenodi Akinbuli as our Ladybrille Woman of the Month. Please join us in applauding and celebrating the beautiful heart and work of this remarkable/brilliant woman! Also, please visit Exodus Guild Inc., get involved, donate your time and/ financial resources to help one disabled person at a time live with dignity and respect.
CONTACT: To get involved or donate financial resources, e-mail Exodus Guild, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: visit www.theexodusguild.org
Interesting Facts you should know, from Exodus Guild's site, about Africans with disabilities in Africa: Africans with disability are estimated at 10% of their general population, but make up 20% of the poor.
80% of working age Africans with disabilities are unemployed.
The number of Africans living with some form of disability is increasing with population growth; aging; chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer; injuries at home, work and on the roads; violence; birth defects; AIDS; environmental degradation; malnutrition; and other causes often related to poverty.
The vast majority of Africans with disabilities are excluded from schools and opportunities to work, virtually guaranteeing that they will live out their lives as the poorest of the poor.
School enrollment for the disabled is estimated at no more than 5-10 percent, in Africa.
Only 1 percent of disabled women living in developing countries are literate.
In many countries [Africa included] disability is excluded from the public health and other social policies, which would ideally support and protect people with disabilities.
Stigma and discrimination are among the underlying factors thwarting the inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities in African societies.The social stigma associated with disability causes Africans with disabilities to become marginalized and isolated from society. Ultimately, such persons resort to begging as the sole means of survival.