The media and civil society have been urged to become a force for change in combating stigma and discrimination against persons with disabilities (PWDs) and their inclusion in the scheme of affairs.
That would go a long way to transform the lives of PWDs, Madam Susan Mensah of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), formerly United Kingdom Department for International Development (UKAid), said in Accra.
Stigma refers to the act of labelling someone as inferior because of an attribute he or she has; whilst discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between human beings based on their groups, classes, or other categories to which they are perceived to belong.
Madam Mensah said this at the launch of the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie (Ghana Participation Programme) Second Call for Proposals.
Under this call for proposals, the programme plans to award grants totalling GH¢11 million.
Ghana Somubi Dwumadie is a four-year disability programme in Ghana, with a specific focus on mental health and funded by the UK Government.
“The UK has a strong track record on leaving no one behind and is a global leader on disability inclusion,” Madam Mensah said.
“The FCDO firmly believes that the inclusion of people with disabilities is key to leaving no one behind and we will not eradicate poverty, deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) without including PWDs in our work,” she said.
“This means ensuring their health and socio-economic wellbeing are prioritised during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Madam Mensah said the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie initiative, situated within the larger Leave No One Behind Programme, had been designed and developed to specifically ensure that all people with disability and mental health conditions in Ghana were engaged, empowered and enjoyed improved wellbeing, social and economic outcomes and rights.
She said the innovative and ground-breaking programme was run by a consortium of partners who brought together a wide range of skills and experience.
“This includes Basic Needs Ghana, Kings College London, Sight-savers International and Tropical Health.”
Madam Mensah said Options Consultancy Ltd was the lead and coordinating consortium partner, which had extensive expertise in health systems strengthening.
“The key objectives of the launch of the Second Grant Call for Proposals are to specifically improve the wellbeing of, and empower people with disabilities, including mental health disabilities; and to generate evidence through research and what works to inform policy and practice…to reduce stigma and discrimination,” she said.
Madam Mensah said the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities required member states, such as Ghana, to raise awareness to combat stigma and stereotypes related to PWDs, including encouraging the media to portray them in a way that respected their dignity and human rights.
Images and stories in the media could deeply influence public opinion and establish positive societal norms, she noted.
“Stigma can lead to deprioritisation of disability and mental health consideration and the work of Ghana Somubi Dwumadie generally ….seeks to address that.”
“So we urge the media and all stakeholders to become a force for change in combating stigma and discrimination on disability inclusion in Ghana.”
Mrs Lyla Adwan-Kamara, the Team Leader, Ghana Somubi Dwumadie, said the proposals should focus on projects, which built evidence and effectiveness for mental health and disability inclusion interventions.
They must also ensure that PWDs, including people with mental health disability, were in the lead on approaches to improve their wellbeing, social and economic outcomes and rights.