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Blind children receive trainings on the Sierra Leone child rights Act

© UNICEF/Sierra Leone/2009/Davies
Osman, reading the Brailled Child rights Act.

Freetown, Sierra Leone, 16 June 2009 – Osman Kamara, 16, the youngest of three children in a family of five, was born blind in Freetown and enrolled at the Milton Margai School for the Blind at the age of 5 where he has been living ever since.

He is now a fifth form pupil in one of the secondary schools in Freetown and with the aid of the Braille, he participates effectively in the classroom and makes good grades in his school work.  Blind and other disabled children invariably suffer from various forms of discrimination and neglect in Sierra Leone.

A brailled version of the Child rights Act
There are over one hundred thousand blind people in Sierra Leone and Osman is one of the 300 children who are presently undergoing trainings "Understanding the Child rights Act has made us feel empowered and more confident."on the Sierra Leone Child Rights Act (CRA) which was passed into law in June 2007 and has been embossed into Braille.

The CRA criminalizes child abuse and seeks to give better protection and recognition to child rights and welfare in Sierra Leone. The CRA also stipulates equal opportunities for disabled people to get access to social amenities and jobs.

About 100 blind children in Freetown have already started the trainings and these will be followed by sessions for those in the north, east and southern parts of the country.

UNICEF supports the CRA Steering Committee that is led by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in collaboration with some non-governmental organizations to facilitate trainings and sensitization of stakeholders on the CRA.

The committee has developed training manuals and guides and UNICEF facilitated the CRA to be simplified into a child-friendly version.

Training manuals for blind teachers

© UNICEF/Sierra Leone/2009/Davies
Osman’s fingers act as his eyes when he reads the brailled Child rights Act.

And now, for the first time in Sierra Leone, the CRA and the training manuals and guides have been exclusively Brailled and taught to blind children by blind teachers who had been previously trained by the CRA Steering Committee.

“Being disabled does not mean we cannot do things on our own; we are as much Sierra Leoneans as any other people and we need equal opportunities!” expressed Osman, as he was about to read a section of the Brailled CRA.

“We now have the opportunity to read our own materials and these trainings will help us to know more about our rights and responsibilities”.

Osman, who is also a member of the Children’s Forum Network (CFN), which is an umbrella group of children in every district in the country that advocates for children’s rights, participation and welfare, said that with the experience and knowledge acquired at the trainings, he hopes to establish a branch of the network at the Milton Margai School for the Blind so that he can continue to advocate for equal opportunities and train younger blind children on the CRA.  

“Understanding the CRA has made us feel empowered and more confident to advocate on our rights and responsibilities”, Osman concluded. “With this, we are now calling for a positive change of attitudes towards blind and other disabled persons in Sierra Leone”.

By Issa Davies 

 

 
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