As part of efforts to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, PWDs, in Nigeria, The Global Initiative for Civil Stabilization, GICS, with support from the Switzerland Embassy in Nigeria, organized a one day media capacity building on Saturday, 17th June, 2023, with the theme, “Reporting for Deepening the Implementation of the 2018 Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act”, at the Nugget Hotel, Utako, Abuja.

In an opening remark, Muhammad Al-Mansur, CEO of GICS, said the essence of the training was to empower journalists with the right tools to improve awareness of the Act as a lot of people do not know there is a law for PWD, and punishment attached to any form of discrimination against them.

He added that in the quest for equality, global inclusion and marginalized communities coming into the mainstream, the media is a critical partner that should be worked with not only by PWDs but also persons fighting for the rights of PWDs.

Muhammad Al-Mansur, CEO GICS

Al-Mansur, called the media to action as there are a lot of stories about the plights of PWDs not known, as contained in the Act as well as Nigerians and Institutions ignorantly defaulting on the law.

Also at the event, the representative from the Embassy of Switzerland in Nigeria, Nicolas Martin-Archad, commended GICS for coming up with the training, especially from the angle of knowing the rights of PWD as they have always been pitied and treated with a mentality of charity.

t’s a mentality shift as such the importance of having this training for the media to help change the narrative on some issues, protect, pursue and promote the rights of PWD.”

Nicolas Martin-Archad, Switzerland Embassy Representative in Nigeria

Nicolas, added that there is so much PWD can do for themselves, and urged media practitioners to do more in stopping discriminatory ideas about PWDs with the new knowledge gained in the training.

Barr. Mary Musa, a Legal Practitioner, Human Resource Practitioner, Humanitarian and Secretary General, Network of Women with Disabilities, and who was a resource person at the training, spoke about the structural and systemic barriers to the implementation of the PWD Act. She said the media forms a vital part of the systemic barriers.

Mary Musa, said the only way the equation of PWD can be balanced in society is to keep creating awareness, as it will be a gradual process for society to learn and implement the Act.

Analyzing the Act, she said the act act is an an excellent legal documentation” because it speaks of provisions enacted by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD.

However, she said to pass a law is one thing, and to implement is another. Therefore any law that cannot be implemented is as good as nonexistent. The bulk of the work therefore lies on its implementation, and this is where the media comes to play, as media is an amplifier that shapes the minds of the populace who only buy what they sell.

No one can tell a PWD’s story than a PWD. However this can be achieved through synergy with the media, government, and everybody.

Barrister Mary Musa, Secretary General, Network of Women with Disabilities

She implored the media to be highly intentional in ensuring that the appropriate message about PWDs is conveyed to society without making them objects of pity, but rather dispelling stereotypes against them.

Another resource person at the event, Diego Odoh Okenyodo, a Nigerian writer, activist poet and journalist, gave a journalist perspective to the reportage of PWDs. He said the important thing about using digital media is knowing how easy it is, using competitions, art-based tools that engage young people, creating reels, and webinars amongst others in aiding this awareness.

A journalist is a subject matter expert, that has influence, and can get involved to advocate and can call attention to an issue using these tools”, he said.

Diego Odoh Okenyodo, Writer

He noted that the law criminalise people being used to solicit alms, and the punishment rages from paying fines and jail term as the case may be, as signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, and implementing it will make a lot of difference for PWDs

On the whole, the training brought to light the need for journalists to talk to and communicate with the person with disability while reporting about them and report from their perspective using very empowering language, so that all reporting ‘must’ put the person first before their disabilities.

One of the participants, Kenneth Nani, said the training was insightful and was also a refresher course for him and a wake up call for all journalists. He commended GICS for the opportunity to learn new ways to work.

Global Initiative for Civil Stabilization, GICS, was founded to work on the areas of protection of civilians in conflict, deepening the understanding of international humanitarian laws, working on sexual violence in the context of armed conflict and dealing with the rights of people with disabilities.

Reporting: Elizabeth Ereke