Nigeria – Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI) gained a powerful new ally in our advocacy push across Ekiti State. His Royal Majesty Oba David Sunday Awe Akingbade, the Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti, was appointed patron of the local AWWDI chapter on Tuesday, September 19th 2023

The respected traditional ruler welcomed a delegation from AWWDI and their partner organizations, WeLead and Hivos, to his palace to make the announcement. The team led by AWWDI’s National Coordinator, Mrs. Bilikisu Yakubu. Addressing the gathering, Oba Akingbade expressed pride that his domain had been selected for the disability rights campaign currently underway in select states.

“Uplifting those vulnerable and excluded in our communities remains a priority for me as ikoolukoolu [king],” he declared. “I gladly accept the patron role, and pledge my full backing so your push for equity may prosper.” 

The campaign, now in its second phase, centers on enhancing healthcare access, economic participation, and sexual/reproductive health rights among women and girls with disabilities (WGWDs). Ekiti is one of the five states covered under the 3-year initiative sponsored by Hivos, an international development agency seeking to improve conditions for marginalized groups.

Following the patron appointment, AWWDI team members led an informative workshop for local leaders on effective advocacy tactics. Among those attending were the Permanent Secretary of Health, Dr. Yemi Adaramoye and representatives from the Ekiti State Health Board.

Ms. Yakubu urged locals to leverage this high-level support for maximum impact. She said: “His Royal Majesty commands enormous respect across Ekiti. With Oba Akingbade championing this disability rights drive, it will resonate widely… We have strong duty-bearers here to collaborate with now.” 

The team said phase one saw significant wins, but stressed that ensuring full inclusion and accessibility remains urgent yet unfinished business. Though the Nigerian Disability Act officially prohibits discrimination, implementation gaps allow exclusion to persist nationwide.

AWWDI program manager Kolawole Jayeoba stressed that persists stigma and misinformation fuels the marginalization of women and girls with disabilities. “We must relentlessly highlight the spectrum of capability motivating all advocacy – disability does not inherently restrict talent nor rights,” he said.

Oba Akingbade concurred, stating: “I have seen firsthand how empowering persons with disabilities strengthens families, clans and kingdoms. Equity allows everyone under the sun to contribute their gifts towards our collective prosperity.”

The traditional ruler then led attendees in a solidarity dance celebrating momentum towards disability justice. AWWDI team later conducted a road walk around the town distributing posters affirming disability as a regular thread within human diversity.

“We will only achieve harmony and progress once all people enjoy equitable rights and opportunities,” said AWWDI Program Officer. “Oba Akingbade’s backing brings this vision closer. But we urge all Ekiti residents to help quicken its arrival.”

State health officials promised to enhance healthcare accessibility moving forward while investigating discrimination claims. “Collaboration is key now,” said Perm Sec. “We have the shared responsibility as duty-bearers to ensure all public infrastructure and information accommodates persons with disabilities.”

Buoyed by the encouraging start, AWWDI team says engaging media, legislators, police and educators represents next steps for entrenching inclusion.

“The energy feels different this time,” noted member Motunrayo Dada, who uses a wheelchair. “Finally, it seems Nigeria is realizing women and girls with disabilities voices matter – and that embracing our rights and talent strengthens everyone. We celebrate this solidarity.”

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