BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – Ahead of the County Council Sitting in Grand Bassa, people living with disabilities are calling on authorities to give them delegate status at the once-a-year event where major decisions are made on how to spend the County and Social Development Funds.
According to the county coordinator of the Christian Association of the Blind, Robert Kpadoe, since the establishment of the fund in 2007, people with disabilities in Grand Bassa have never been given delegate status to actively participate in determining how the funds are used. He said the disabled community, which numbers an estimated 200 across the country, have usually been relegated to observers.
“We want to be delegates because observers cannot speak at the county council sitting,” he said. “If you are not [a] delegate, you can’t say what you want to say. If you send [a] letter through somebody, they will drop the letter and say [a] different thing and they can’t give you change again. So it’s affecting us greatly. If they can’t give us anything, let us talk too.”
Kpadoe said everyone is equal before the law, but the lack of participation of the disabled community is a clear indication that the group is being marginalized, adding that members of his group could have important insights.
He said money from the fund should be used on tangible projects in the county that can benefit everyone, including the road to the Fairground and feeder roads in the county to enable smooth movement.
“The car road from Tubman Street to Fairground, by now, that place should be fixed with [asphalt] ever since,” Kpadoe said. “As I learned, ArcelorMittal will be here for 25 years and each year is US$1 million. Why they can’t give ArcelorMittal [the] go-ahead to pave the road for two years, which is two US$2 million? But they want the money to go in their pockets.”
During the administration of former superintendent Levi Demmah, the disabled community, which comprises the blind, deaf, and dumb, and the Group of 72nd, received US$3,000. Kpadoe said that is the only money that has been given to the disabled since the fund was established. Grand Bassa has received over US$11 million from 2005 to 2018 through the County and Social Development Funds.
That US$3,000 was split, with US$1,500 shared equally among the groups. The balance US$1,500 was used to purchase land to construct an office for the disabled union.
Peter Jimmy, who is the county coordinator of the Group of 72nd, a group representing the disabled, said as disabled persons, their marginalization at the county sittings stems from the fact that society believes they have nothing to offer. But he said having a voice at the decision-making meeting will allow the disabled to voice their needs.
“Our challenges are numerous. For example; our children’s education – there are so many scholarships, but our children are not benefiting. We need [an] office. Like our president said, in every ministry and agency, there should be two or three disabled persons employed. But as big as Grand Bassa County is, [in] all the offices, you will not find one disabled person employed.”
When reached for comments, Grand Bassa”s superintendent Janjay Baikpeh vowed to work with the community to allow them to be decision-makers during the county council sitting. He said despite their disability, they are still citizens and their views must be heard at all times.
Featured photo by Sampson David