By Fru Rita Ngum
Decentralized local authorities in partnership with the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SEEPD) Program of the CBC Health Services Northwest Region have shared testimonies, challenges, and experiences in the promotion of inclusion in their municipalities.
This was during a 2 day “Outcome Monitoring” Workshop organized by the SEEPD Program recently at the Baptist Center Nkwen, Bamenda. The workshop was aimed at promoting inclusion in the Council Development Plans, Policies and Actions of decentralized support structures by strengthening the institutional and organizational capacity of the Councils and Regional decentralized structures.
The workshop was organized one year after the first workshop in 2020 which targeted Mayors and Secretary Generals, Leaders and operation persons of the Councils and other technical structures accompanying Councils in the process of decentralization to introduce participants to the concept and principles underpinning inclusive local governance. The workshop ended up with commitments made by Councils and technical structures to take little steps in promoting inclusion in their respective communities.
This year’s workshop had as lead facilitator the CBM Regional Program Quality Manager for West and Central Africa, Mr. Mue Peter. Following their action plans developed in 2020, participating structures presented progress reports and challenges. Key accomplishments included: the establishment of birth certificates for children with disabilities, inclusion of some persons with disabilities in poverty alleviation programs such as the World Bank funded Social Safety Net project, provision of assistive devices and essential medicines to persons with disabilities, provision of sign language interpretation services in public events, facilitation of legalization of marriages for persons with disabilities, payment of medical bills for some persons with disabilities, and construction of ramps into public buildings.
Despite these achievements recorded, the Councils noted some challenges including but not limited to the slow implementation of some municipal orders, incomprehensive data on persons with disabilities, and high cost of remodeling public buildings. In addressing the aforementioned challenges, the facilitator further emphasized the centrality of the April 10, 2010 Law, its 2018 Degree of Application and 2021 promulgation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as basis for action. He encouraged decentralized local authorities to promote inclusion as a human rights requirement as opposed to acts of charity done in the interest of a minority group.
Appraising the Workshop, the Mayor of Bafut, Ngwa Lawrence said, the Bafut Council can be highly rated for mainstreaming inclusion, thanks to the capacity building from the SEEPD Program. He, however, noted that much still needs to be done and he is mapping strategies on how to get some actions done such as, ensuring that all schools in Bafut become inclusive.
He noted that this will be done by making provision in the Council’s 2023 budget for the construction of schools. He expressed that with capacity building they will put in place different methods of collecting quality data. On his part, the Secretary General of Wum Council, Ekome Ivo Smith stated that one of the goals of the Wum Council is to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all development plans and that even though they are not yet there, the Council in collaboration with the SEEPD Program is doing its best to promote inclusion at all levels.
As the Council continues to take their little steps toward inclusion in their communities, the SEEPD Program on its part is putting in place strategies to provide them with the technical expertise needed to realize their commitments. Their actions will be further recognized during the Award of Excellence for Best Councils Promoting Inclusion which is scheduled to be launched in November 2022. In promoting inclusion in local development in the Northwest Region of Cameroon, the SEEEPD Program acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).